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The Difference Between Housewife, Oxford & Bolster Pillowcases

Choosing the right bedding is one of the most important steps when adding the finishing touches to making your house a home. But sometimes it’s hard to know exactly what you’re looking for when it comes to browsing for interior inspiration and making the right bedding choices to suit your needs.

Take pillowcases, for example. A pillowcase is just a pillowcase, right? Actually, there are two main options for you to choose from with subtle differences that create a totally different aesthetic: the classic Housewife design and the fancier Oxford pillowcase and then the decorative option of the Bolster pillowcase. Here at We Love Linen, we’ve created a bedding guide for you to distinguish between the two and ensure you find the right design of pillowcase to best fit your room.

Housewife Pillowcase

The Housewife Pillowcase

The Housewife pillowcase is the standard design for most pillowcases and probably the type you’re most familiar with. This pillowcase is the ‘no frills’ option; Housewife pillowcases feature a plain, sewn edge and provide a snug fit over a standard rectangular bed pillow.Though the name ‘Housewife’ may trigger sexist connotations, we like to believe the name originated in honour of the 1880’s Housewives Co-operative in Bolton, who adapted the standard pillowcases used back then to include the inner flap that keeps the pillow in place, creating the more efficient pillowcase we use today. The Housewife pillowcase works perfectly in all rooms, particularly if your theme is quite laid-back, if you’re using scatter cushions or if other elements of the room are doing the talking.

Oxford Pillowcase

The Oxford Pillowcase

The Oxford Pillowcase is the grander design of the two, featuring a purely decorative fabric border around the edge of the pillowcase, typically around 5cm in width. Oxford pillowcases fit a standard rectangular pillow in exactly the same way as a Housewife pillowcase does, but they look larger in size due to the added material of the border.The Oxford’s name also comes from an ambiguous origin, with many assuming the design must have initially been invented in Oxford. However, there is also a theory that the name comes from the thick Oxford cloth that these pillowcases were originally made from when first designed, due to the durability of the material. We’re happy we’ve moved on since then to softer cotton and silk pillowcases! Because of its larger width than the standard Housewife, the Oxford pillowcase looks great on bigger bed frames that can accommodate the size without looking overcrowded. Oxfords also work well on their own or layered behind smaller Housewife styles for a more luxurious look.

The Bolster Pillowcase

The Bolster pillowcase is a long, narrow pillowcase which fits two pillows inside. The word bolster derives from the old English meaning 'bag'. Known in Asia as the 'hugging pillow' for it's longer length, bolster pillows are commonly used for sitting up in bed or as decoration for propping up cushions and standard pillows. They come in different shapes with no standard size, you may have seen cylinder shaped bolster pillows on armchairs and sofas whilst smaller rectangular bolster pillows are used for yoga practice. Pregnant women can also benefit from bolster pillows for propping up the legs or back whilst lying down. Our Sestina bolster pillowcase is made from 100% cotton percale, 50cm in width and there are different sizes available from 4ft bed to super king.   

The style of pillowcase you choose is ultimately down to personal choice and determined by a few factors such as the size of your bed, whether or not you’re including additional decorative cushions and the overall aesthetic of your bedroom. If you’re looking to create that luxurious aesthetic in your room, try browsing our range of stunning Hotel Bedding by Charlotte Thomas, which features both Housewife and Oxford style pillowcase styles crafted to hotel luxury standards.