Adulthood can be a real challenge, and you have to learn as you go. For example, do you have any idea what a bed sham is? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. Ask around and you’re likely to get a wealth of guesses. You might even think it’s some sort of online mattress scam. But fret not, we have the answer to your burning wonder about bed shams. A bed sham is just a fancy pillow cover, sometimes also referred to as a “false front,” that serves a decorative purpose.

What Is The Purpose Of A Bed Sham?

As we mentioned, bed shams are typically used for decorative or aesthetic reasons. Pillows serve a function when they are in use, but they can also be accessories when your head isn’t laying on them. A sham gives your pillows more visual appeal, turning them from function to fashion to fit your bedroom or living room decor. They give your pillow frills, designs, and textures that tie in with the rest of your interior design sensibilities.

Different Types Of Bed Shams

Like pillowcases, bed shams come in different sizes to fit the size and style of pillow that you own. Typically, shams that come with a bedding set will fit types of pillows that pair with the bed size, but you can mix and match if you want to create a different look.

Standard bed sham:

  • Fits a standard pillow
  • Measures 26 inches by 20 inches

Queen Sham:

  • Fits Queen size pillows
  • Measure 30 inches by 20 inches
  • Queen pillows are an in-between size that is not as common as standard or King size, so queen size shams may be more difficult to come by.

King size sham:

  • Fits King size pillows
  • Measures 36 inches by 20 inches

European sham:

  • Fits square pillows
  • Measures 26 inches by 26 inches
  • Tend to be more decorative

Boudoir Sham:

  • Fits smaller, decorative pillows
  • Measures 12 inches by 16 inches
  • Most boudoir pillows come with the shams, but you can swap them for a different look.

Shams can also have different types of closures, which is how you can secure them around your intended pillow. Most have a slit in the back that overlaps the pillow, though some may have a zipper or button closure for a better fit.

Most shams match the bedding set that they come with, which means they use the same fabric as the duvet or comforter. Many are made out of cotton, but they can be made from polyester, silk, velvet or fabric blends. Shams often have lace around the edges, but the finishing can also simply be an extension of the material used for the face of the bed sham. Some shams may include tassels, pom poms, borders or other design flairs.

What Is The Difference Between A Bed Sham And A Pillowcase? 

The difference between a bed sham and a pillowcase comes down to look and purpose. Pillowcases are simple, comfortable, and made for you to use or sleep on them. Bed shams are decoration, meant to achieve a specific look but not necessarily meant to be used.

Typically not meant for useMeant to be used and slept on
Come in a variety of fabrics, including fancier materials like silk or cashmereTypically made from cotton, linen or polyester
Have extra strips of fabric, called flanges, to make the pillow look largerDo not have flanges
May not be meant for machine washingCan be machine washed

How To Make Your Own Bed Sham

You can easily make a bed sham yourself. All you need is some vision, good fabric, and minimal sewing skills to do it. Fabrics that are on the thicker side and have some body to them are usually best to use (especially if you plan on using it for the edge as well, as thicker materials will stand up better), but any material should work.

Materials & Supplies You’ll Need:

  • Fabric
    • You will need fabric for the front, for the back and the flanges. They can be the same or different.
  • Matching thread
  • Pins
  • A ruler
  • Scissors

Step One: Cut the fabric to fit your pillow 

You can measure yourself or check the dimensions mentioned above for common pillow sizes. If you want a more substantial look, make your flanges larger. Or you can make them small, or not have it at all; the design is all up to you. Once you have all your pieces, cut your back piece in half for the opening.

Step Two: Assemble your sham

Begin by taking your front-facing pillow panel and face it front side up. Next, place the back panels front side down on top of the front panel. Make sure all of the edges are aligned. The back panels should overlap about 8 to 10 inches.

Step Three: Sew, sew sew! 

Sew up your bed sham all around the edges. When you’re done, just flip the sham inside out through the envelope opening in the back.

Step Four: Flanges

This step is only needed if you want the surrounding flanges. Just add another stitch border down about two inches into your bed sham. Be sure to plan ahead and measure out the extra inches when you’re cutting your fabric.

Step Five: Insert your pillow

Now, the bed sham is ready to throw it on your bed and enjoy!

Final Thoughts

Bed shams are a great way to make a statement in your bedroom or living room by turning plain pillows into eye-grabbing accessories. They may not be as functional as your standard pillowcase, but they provide an aesthetic flair to help tie your room’s design together. Remember, fashion is a function, as it will make your house feel like a home with a style that expresses your personality.


Where does the sham go on the bed?

Bed shams go on your pillows. They offer a decorative cover that provides you with a look that matches the design of your bedding or comforter.

What is the difference between a sham and a pillowcase?

Shams are decorative, meant to be looked at and not necessarily meant to be used. They often are made with fancier designs and use higher-end fabrics. Pillowcases are more functional. They are meant to be slept on. They are typically less fancy looking and are machine washable.

What is the best kind of pillow to put in a sham?

Bed shams come in a variety of sizes that are meant to fit different types of pillows, from standard all the way up to king size. There are even shams for decorative pillows that are square or rectangular in shape.

Do I need pillow shams?

You don’t need a pillow sham, but they do provide a visual flair that a standard pillow or pillowcase cannot match. There’s no reason not to have shams if you want to get a new look in your bedroom or living room.