What Should I Consider When Buying a Pillow Sham?

Paulla Estes
Paulla Estes
A patterned pillow sham over a pillow.
A patterned pillow sham over a pillow.

A pillow sham is a decorative cover for the pillow or pillows on a bed. More than a mere pillow case, a pillow sham is normally only used when the bed is made up properly. A properly made bed usually means that all the linens, blankets and quilts or outer coverings are pulled up and smoothed out. The sleeping pillows are fluffed up and the decorative pillows, those covered with pillow shams, are set ornamentally on top of or in front of the sleeping pillows.

Tweed fabric.
Tweed fabric.

When purchasing a pillow sham, the first thing to consider is the style of the bedroom. Is it the bedroom of a married couple, an elderly single, a teen, a child, a young adult? The style of the room will dictate the type of fabric to be used on the pillow sham and the style to be chosen.

A child's room may be decorated with a barrage of pillows across the head of the bed, each pillow sham with the face of an animal or each in bright primary colors. The fabric should be machine washable. Choosing a pillow sham for the bedroom of a married couple will largely depend on the d├ęcor of their bedroom and their individual tastes, but they might enjoy a silky, smooth pillow sham style, such as those made of silk or satin. The bedroom of a grandmother might have a pillow sham collection covered in delicate lace of muted colors.

Pillow shams made from satin are usually smooth and silky.
Pillow shams made from satin are usually smooth and silky.

The second consideration when buying a pillow sham is the level of formality. Many a pillow sham can be found that is bordered in flanging, tassels, fringe, ruffles, or cording. While a pillow sham found in the bedroom of a male teenager might be made of dark, solid colors with only cording as a border, the pillow sham found in the bedroom of a female teen could be bright pink with fluffy white ruffles serving as trim.

Pillow shams are often used to adorn large and especially fluffy pillows.
Pillow shams are often used to adorn large and especially fluffy pillows.

A pillow sham is not just for regular, sleeping sized pillows. Pillow shams come in all shapes and sizes for any type of pillow, from king-sized all the way down to small throw pillows and unusually shaped pillows. Often, a pillow sham set can be purchased which provides decorative covering for a whole collection of pillows. A pillow sham is not put on a pillow like a regular pillow case; rather, it has an overlap opening in the back so the opening won't show.

Remember, a pillow sham is for decorative use. It is not normally used when the bed is in use. It is not to be slept on, but rather, it is to be used like the outer quilt; its purpose is to make the bed look nice. For beds without headboards, a pillow sham can be put on a pillow and propped against the wall to give the look of a backboard or headboard. A pillow sham can also be used under the sleeping pillow at night, for those who need an extra pillow.

When choosing the pillow sham for your bed, remember, the sky is the limit. From satin to velvet to tweed, any fabric can be used to serve your decorative tastes.

Paulla Estes
Paulla Estes

Paulla is a freelance writer and website editor who currently lives in Maine. Paulla has a B.A. in English Literature from George Mason University and over 15 years of experience as a freelancer. She relishes the flexibility and consistency of working on PillowGuide articles, as well as the opportunity to constantly learn something new.

Paulla Estes
Paulla Estes

Paulla is a freelance writer and website editor who currently lives in Maine. Paulla has a B.A. in English Literature from George Mason University and over 15 years of experience as a freelancer. She relishes the flexibility and consistency of working on PillowGuide articles, as well as the opportunity to constantly learn something new.

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Discussion Comments

anon17579

what is a french fold...on a pillow sham?

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    • A patterned pillow sham over a pillow.
      By: karam miri
      A patterned pillow sham over a pillow.
    • Tweed fabric.
      By: ksushsh
      Tweed fabric.
    • Pillow shams made from satin are usually smooth and silky.
      By: Unclesam
      Pillow shams made from satin are usually smooth and silky.
    • Pillow shams are often used to adorn large and especially fluffy pillows.
      By: Elenathewise
      Pillow shams are often used to adorn large and especially fluffy pillows.