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What Is an Oxford Pillow Case?

By A.M. Boyle
Updated May 23, 2024
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The oxford pillow case is a style of cloth covering normally used to envelop a bed pillow. It is rectangular in shape and has a border around the periphery. The border can come in various shapes and designs and is decorative in nature. With an oxford pillow case, because of the border, the opening where the pillow is inserted is usually in the back.

It is unclear when the first pillow cases came into vogue, but the history of the pillow itself might date back to ancient Egypt. Standard pillow cases are a basic rectangular shape with the stitching on the inside and an opening for the pillow to go in at one of the short ends of the rectangle. Basically, a standard pillow case is quite plain and looks very much like a sack. While functional, it is not usually very decorative.

In answer to the blasé nature of a standard pillow case, the oxford pillow case was devised. The seams of an oxford pillow case are actually on the outside. While this type of case is necessarily rectangular in shape so as to accommodate the average pillow, it has a border around all four edges.

The border of an oxford pillow case can vary in length but usually extends out from the body approximately 2 to 5 inches (about 5 to 13 cm). Sometimes, the border is straight and flat. Other times, it is scalloped or ruffled. Either way, the border serves no practical function but is there to give the pillow case a decorative flare.

Due to the border, the slot where the pillow is inserted is usually in the back of the pillow case. It is typically a double-flapped aperture either at the center or toward one side. This way, the appearance of the fancy edging remains intact and is not disturbed or interrupted by an opening for the pillow.

Some might assume that this pillow covering is named an oxford pillow case because of where it was first made. This, however, is not necessarily true. The pillow case got its name because of the type of fabric that it was originally made from. Traditionally, these items were made from a thick cotton cloth called oxford cloth. Oxford cloth was typically used to make shirts yet was chosen for the pillow case because of its hardy durability.

Typically, oxford pillow cases are available at most department stores and other stores that sell bedding and linens. Despite tradition, oxford cloth is not generally used any longer to make these types of pillow cases. Rather, oxford pillow cases are made from a variety of materials, including fine cotton, satin, and flannel.

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Discussion Comments

By turquoise — On Aug 19, 2014

@Hazali-- Of course pillow cases should be washed! I wash mine once a week! I actually use two pillow cases. I first put on a standard, thin cotton pillow case and then a cotton Oxford pillow case on top. The inner pillow case keeps the pillow clean from dust and odors. I usually keep the inner pillow case on all the time an wash the outer Oxford case once a week. It works great for me. My pillows are always fresh and smell good.

By stoneMason — On Aug 18, 2014

@discographer-- I don't think so. The Oxford pillow case just looks better. It's decorative and it looks much nicer and neater on the bed. And because of the border, the pillow looks bigger. I use this type if pillow case and I like it. Mine are satin.

By discographer — On Aug 18, 2014

@Viranty-- Oxford is a rather good name for a pillow case. There is another pillow case called "housewife." Now that is a strange name for a pillow case.

The Oxford pillow case gets compared with the housewife pillow case often because these are the two main varieties. Most people use a housewife pillow case which is basically the standard pillow case we all know. There is no border around it so the pillow fills all of the case. The Oxford has a border around it, so there is a flange hanging all around.

I'm not sure which type I like best. Aside from the appearance, is there any other advantage of the Oxford pillow case?

By Viranty — On Aug 14, 2014

It's interesting to see how the oxford pillow case got its name. It also shows us how some products get their name from a way that's different than what we expect.

By Krunchyman — On Aug 14, 2014

Speaking of oxford pillow cases, I find that some brands tend to last a lot longer than others. Sure, all cases will get dirty at one point or another, but it seems like some wear out more quickly regardless. One thing that's always good to remember is that just because you can buy something for a higher price, doesn't always mean it's the better brand. If anything, it's better to buy products that are on sale, as that's how you'll get the best guarantee.

By Hazali — On Aug 13, 2014

Pillow cases work wonders for your pillows. After all, they do a great job at making sure your pillow doesn't get dirty. However, it's always a good idea to wash the case regardless. Since pillows (and their respective cases) are meant to be slept on, they can get dirty quite easily, especially if it's a hot summer night. As an example, a few years ago, there was a pillow that I had kept for a long time. Sooner or later though, I had to replace the case. I never did wash it, and it was quite unpleasant.

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