Housewife or Oxford? Pillowcase talk…

October 16, 2019

Housewife or Oxford? Pillowcase talk…

Oxford vs Housewife – not a grudge match between a university town and a put-upon home worker, but standard pillowcase terminology. Yes, the names are confusing – but the two main pillowcase types in fact only have one real difference, and that’s the addition of a decorative hem, flange or ‘skirt’ to the Oxford style.

What is a Housewife pillowcase? Why is it called that?

Though the ‘housewife’ monicker raises hackles for its less-than-PC connotations, the term has innocent origins. Up until the late 19th century, pillowcases were simply open-ended, so pillows tended to worm their way out of their cases. An envelope-style pocket was introduced in the 1880s to tuck them into place and make life a little easier, and it’s thought the design was named after its creators – the “Bolton Housewives” Laundry Co-operative. This forerunner of the WI was part of the Women’s Co-operative Guild, founded on a national movement campaigning for fair wages and equal opportunities for women. We rather like that idea that, far from being sexist, this historic bedlinen term signals what amounts to the start of the Fairtrade movement…

Still not sure if Oxford or Housewife is best for you? Here’s our buyer’s guide to pillowcase styles and sizes:

Housewife Pillowcases

Sometimes called Standard pillowcases, Housewife pillowcases are simple, streamlined and close-fitting. Square Flower’s Housewife pillowcases have an extra-deep internal pocket in a neat, modern envelope style.

Oxford Pillowcases

Also designed to take a standard pillow size, Oxford pillowcases feature a separate fabric frill, border or flange that usually measures around 5cm–10cm wide. We like a relaxed, minimal look at Square Flower, so our Oxford pillowcases have a narrow hem of Xcm.

Standard Pillowcases

Although sometimes used interchangeably with Housewife, the term ‘Standard’ just refers to the pillow size – so a standard pillowcase fits a standard pillow (50cm x 75cm).

Kingsize Pillowcases

These extra-long pillowcases are designed to fit the wider pillows meant for kingsize beds (50cm x 90cm). They can be made in the simple Housewife envelope style, or in the Oxford style, with a hem.

Pillowcase crib sheet

Housewife = simple

Oxford = decorative

Continental = square

Standard = normal size

Kingsize = you get the idea

Now you know which is which, you’re ready to choose your organic cotton pillowcases…

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