What Is a Sham? Let’s End the Confusion

May 10, 2021 | Casper Editorial Team

If you’ve ever asked yourself, “What is a sham?” or “What is a pillow sham?,” you’re in the right place. Often referred to interchangeably as a sham, pillow sham, or bed sham, these pillow covers turn traditional-sized pillows into decorations for your bed. While similar to a normal pillowcase, they often have a more decorative front and an opening in the back rather than the end.

Because of its decorative nature, you’ll often use a regular pillow sham strictly as an accessory or to prop you up in bed while reading or relaxing. You can sleep on them, although the decorative pillow may not be the most comfortable. Additionally, depending on the type of decoration covering the front, they can be more laborious to wash than regular pillowcases.

From shams to regular pillowcases, Casper has all the bedding you need to create your dream sleep setup. Browse our selection today and be on your way to a cozy snooze tomorrow.

The History & Meaning of Shams

The history of shams is as colorful as the fabric they’re often made of. The term ‘sham’ comes from the trickster of the bedding world, meaning “a thing that is not what it is purported to be”1. Now, don’t get your feathers ruffled! Shams aren’t here to pull the wool over your eyes. They’re simply decorative covers that give your regular pillows a dash of pizzazz.

Back in the day, shams were the unsung heroes of the bedroom, adding a touch of elegance without stealing the limelight. They’ve been around for centuries, gracing the beds of royalty and common folk alike. From the ornate designs of the Victorian era to the minimalist styles of today, shams have evolved while staying true to their purpose – to make your bed look like a million bucks!

Are Shams Necessary? 4 Reasons to Buy a Sham

Now, you might be scratching your head, wondering, “Do I really need a sham?” Well, let’s cut to the chase. While shams aren’t exactly a necessity, they sure do pack a punch when it comes to sprucing up your bedroom. Here are a few reasons why you might want to jump on the sham bandwagon.

  1. They Enhance Style: Want to jazz up your bedroom without breaking the bank? Shams are your ticket to a stylish bedroom. They come in a smorgasbord of designs, colors, and fabrics. So, whether you’re a fan of the minimalist aesthetic or you’re all about that boho-chic vibe, there’s a sham out there with your name on it.
  1. Ease of Use: Shams are as easy to use as pie. Simply slip them over your regular pillows for an instant bedroom makeover. And when it’s time for a wash? Just take them off and toss them in the machine. No fuss, no muss!
  1. Comfort: While shams are often used for decorative purposes, they’re no slouch in the comfort department. Many shams are made from soft, luxurious materials that are a treat for your skin. So, go ahead, lean back and enjoy your favorite book or TV show. Your sham-covered pillows have got your back!
  1. Seasonal Decor: Want to change your bedroom decor with the seasons? Shams are a quick and easy way to do it. From spring florals to autumnal hues, you can switch up your shams to reflect the changing seasons. It’s like having a new bedroom every few months!

So, are shams necessary? Maybe not. But are they a fantastic way to style your bedroom? You bet your boots they are! So, why not give them a whirl? You might just fall head over heels for these decorative dynamos.

What’s the Difference Between a Sham and a Pillowcase?

One prevalent difference between a sham and a pillow cover is the location of the opening. While not always the case, pillowcases typically have an opening at one end with excess fabric hanging off the side and no type of closure. A pillow sham typically has either a zipper along one edge or an opening on the back with an envelope-style closure.

Aside from the opening location, a pillow sham often has flange or cording around the edges and a more decorative front, whereas a pillowcase is often plain and used to protect your pillow from body oils and dirt while you sleep.

How to Pick the Right Sham Pillow

Knowing what size pillows you’d like to transform into bed accessories is the first step to picking the right bed sham. If it won’t fit the pillows you already have, it’s not worth the purchase unless you’re willing to purchase new pillows as well. Since matching pillow shams typically come in your standard pillow sizes, all you need to know is what size pillow you want it to cover.

Another consideration is whether or not a pillow sham will match your duvet, comforter, and other types of pillows. While decorative shams occasionally come in a duvet and sheet set, sometimes you may need to purchase them separately. Aside from these two points, another thing to consider is the style of the sham, which depends entirely on your preference.

What Kind of Pillow Goes in a Sham? 

As mentioned previously, bed shams are made to fit traditional sleeping pillow sizes. If you’re unsure what kind of pillow you need to have for each pillow sham size, measure it to see if it will fit in the dimensions below.

  • Standard sham: 20 inches by 26 inches
  • Queen sham: 20 inches by 30 inches
  • King sham: 20 inches by 36 inches

What is a Euro Pillow Sham? 

A Euro sham is a decorative covering for a Euro-sized pillow. Euro pillows are typically 26 inches by 26 inches and Euro shams are made to fit over them. They play the same role as other-sized bed shams, just for a nontraditional-sized pillow. Similar to other pillow shams, a Euro sham will typically coordinate with the duvet and bedding to tie the look together.

Casper Shams

Our percale and sateen shams are made with 100% organic cotton and come in a standard size and king bed size. Our quality percale bed shams are crisp and breathable, while our lustrous sateen shams feature a soft, smooth finish.

We also offer new hyperlite shams made with 100% TENCEL™ Lyocell for ultimate breathability. 


Our percale, sateen, and Hyperlite standard size pillow shams are $79, while all of our king pillow size shams are $89.

  • Percale Shams 
    • Standard: $79
    • King: $89
  • Sateen Shams 
    • Standard: $79
    • King: $89
  • Hyperlite Shams
    • Standard: $79
    • King: $89

When redecorating, trying to change the feel of a room, or just out shopping, it’s normal to ask yourself, “What is a sham?” It can be particularly confusing when faced with the decision to buy a pillowcase or pillow sham. 

Keep in mind that one of the overarching differences between the two is the amount of decoration on each. Pillowcases are plain and show little decoration aside from the occasional printed design. If you want something a little more fancy that can be removed, washed, or replaced easily, a pillow sham is the way to go. But don’t forget to grab a coordinating throw blanket or sheet set to make your bedroom feel polished and complete. 


  1. “Sham Definition & Meaning.” Dictionary.com, www.dictionary.com/browse/sham