A Guide to Buying Pillowcases: Oxford Pillowcase or Housewife

Pillowcases are a funny thing. They should be so simple, you pop them on, change them when you need to and then forget about them, right? These little rectangles of fabric often get overlooked but to us, they’re important because we just love good quality bedding. Read on for a full guide, from the oxford pillowcase’s origins to the best fabrics for a good night’s sleep.

What’s the difference between an oxford pillowcase and a housewife pillowcase?

They’re actually very similar and have the same internal size. The difference is all in the edge. Where the housewife pillowcase has a neat edge the oxford pillowcase has an extra piece of fabric that creates an additional border. This wide hem is normally 5-10 cm in size and makes the pillow appear slightly larger than it is.

What are housewife pillowcases?

The housewife pillowcase has a much simpler look with a sewn edge that fits the shape of the pillow. It gives a nice, clean feel to your bedding and works in any fabric and colour. It’s great if you’re going for a paired back look, avoiding any fancy extras.

Why is it called a housewife pillowcase?

You’d be forgiven for finding the name a little sexist. In fact, this pillowcase was named after the Housewives Co-operative in Bolton who reinvented the standard pillowcase in the 1880's. At the time, pillowcases were just a tube of fabric sewn at one end. They added the overlapping fabric flap we’ve grown accustomed to - the one that keeps the pillows in place when you move. The result? These pillowcases were names in their honour, and we haven’t looked back since. 

What is an oxford pillowcase?

The oxford pillowcase has an extra fabric border or flap around the edge. This gives the illusion of bigger pillows and makes things look a little more plush. They work especially well on bigger beds, where the pillows might look a little small against a super king backdrop. They also make a bed look more luxurious and more ‘dressed’.

Why is called an oxford pillowcase?

Just like oxford shirts, these pillowcases are named after the type of cloth they used to be made of. Oxford cloth was a very hard-wearing material that held up well to being washed time and time again.

Is an oxford pillowcase better?

If you’re feeling puzzled, don’t worry as there’s no wrong answer here. It’s more about the look you’re going for rather than the oxford pillowcase being any better than the other. Having said that, if your bed is particularly large, say a super king for example, you might benefit from the way oxford pillowcases fill out the space a little more.

In hotels, you’ll often find a housewife pillowcase on the bottom pillow, with an oxford pillowcase on top. This gives the bed a more ‘dressed’ look without the use of extra throw pillows. That added fabric border on the oxford pillowcase gives it a little something extra, that makes you want to sink right in to a well made bed.

But both pillowcases are equally good to sleep on: you’re unlikely to notice a difference in the night. Far more important is the fabric your pillowcase is made of and the type of pillow you choose. This will affect everything from how well you sleep to how your neck feels in the morning. Check out our pillow guide to find out more about how to buy the perfect pillow for you.

What fabric should I choose?

For a comfortable night’s sleep, you want natural fabrics like cotton or linen. These are much more breathable than synthetic fabrics and very good at regulating your temperature while you sleep.

Extra long-staple cotton

To get that perfect balance between softness, strength and breathability there’s nothing like extra long-staple cotton. It’s the best cotton in the world (superior to both long and short-staple). The longer fibre gives you a smoother surface, lasts longer and gets softer with wear. It really does wonders for bedding. Read more about extra long-staple cotton and the different cotton sheets available on our guide to Rise & Fall bed linen.

What we do

At Rise & Fall we’re making luxury accessible, by bringing you exceptional goods – without the luxury mark-ups.

High quality fitted sheets that really stay, gorgeously soft oxford pillowcases in two different cotton weaves, and cosy yet breathable wool duvets - we’ve got you covered when it comes to bedding. Browse our full range of household and clothing essentials, each one made to last.