Updated on July 23, 2020
Piglet, Buffy, 10 Grove? I can’t seem to go onto Instagram these days without getting served ads from yet another cool direct-to-consumer bedding brand I’d never heard of. Guys, I can’t keep them all straight.
Because the marketing for these brands is a variation of the same theme: By cutting out the middle man, high-quality, European-made sheets that normally cost $700+ can now be yours for less than $200.
As someone who’s looking to upgrade her bedroom without renovations, the first thing I did was check out new bedding. There’s no shortage of bedding reviews out there. I’ve read them all to get intel on which sheets I should buy. How are any of these very similar brands different? And which sheets is right for me? But more often than not, after reading the articles, I’d felt just as confused as when I started. What I was looking for was an honest point of view and a critical eye.
So I thought: I’m gonna write the type of review I wish had been around when I was doing my own research. I personally bought, field-tested and compared four of the most popular bedding brand options to try to find the very best myself. Today I’m sharing the results!
Unlike other reviews, I’m also going to judge the aesthetics of the pillowcases. Because that’s part of the fun of buying new bedding, right?
What I learned is that “best” is subjective, and the bedding you choose should be based on the features that are most important to you.
For the TLDR crowd:
- How I Tested
- Price and Discounts
- Percale vs. Sateen
- First Impressions
- Thread Counts, Country Origins, and Claims
- How the Materials Feel: The Two Night Test
- How They Looked Right Out of the Dryer
- Visual Details
- Color Options
- Return Policies and Warranties
- My Personal Picks
- Specific Recommendations by Feature
How I Tested
*Affiliate links below*
If you don’t have a lot of experience with fabrics and buying bedding, it can be hard to assess the quality of what you’re buying. You don’t have a baseline to start with.
My own sheets-buying experience was limited to faded, bleach-stained hand-me-downs from mom, and West Elm sheets. But I was curious about all the direct-to-consumer brands whose ads I’d seen plastered all over the subway.
Were the lofty claims true? And most importantly, are any of them worth it for the price?
I thought it would be more fruitful to compare and contrast similar products, side-by-side. That’s why I bought EIGHT sets of pillowcases from four popular startup brands that got their start on the Internet:
From each brand, I bought a set of cases in two fabrics: percale and sateen.
I bought pillowcases instead of sheets, because they’re smaller and easier to manage, and I’m assuming the sheets are made of the same material and quality.
Pillowcase sets that cost the same and are technically made of the same fabric most definitely DO NOT feel the same across the various brands.
As for the test strategy, each pillowcase was washed, measured, photographed, and slept on for two nights by both my husband and me. My husband is a fussy sleeper who refuses to go down without his decades-old pillow friend. And me? I’m on the other end of the spectrum: God help me if there is a fire while I’m sleeping, because I would be burnt to a crisp.
In this review, I’ll share the pros and cons for each brand and fabric, and will make specific recommendations depending on what you are looking for.
Price and Discounts
For a pair of standard-sized pillowcases, here’s what I paid. Percale and sateen cost the same.
|Brand||Pillowcase Set Price||Queen Sheet Set Price|
For pillowcases, Brooklinen was the cheapest and Snowe was the most expensive.
On the right I included prices for a queen sheet set, since that’s how most people would shop.
*Parachute sheet sets don’t come with a top sheet by default. The premium you pay to include one makes this the most expensive option of all the brands.
To put pricing in perspective, a set of Target sheets runs at about $50 or less, so these cost at least three times more.
Shipping was free for all brands, which is what I would expect from an Internet brand.
As a frugal-minded person, the first thing I looked for while shopping was some sort of new customer discount. Here are ones to watch:
I couldn’t find a discount at Parachute. Although I’ve read they do sales around Black Friday and Memorial Day.
Brooklinen seems to run a new promo every time I visit the site, so you can get at least 10% off. They sent me a $20 coupon AFTER I made my purchase. Later I saw a promo code on the train for $20 off: SUBWAY
I got $25 off from Snowe as a first-time customer, but to get the discount I had to spend at least $100.
Riley had a 20% off coupon, which worked on my order, even without a minimum. Nice!
Percale Vs. Sateen
If you’re looking for basic bedding options from these brands, the first thing you have to decide is whether you want percale or sateen fabric. What’s the difference?
Both are 100% cotton, but the weaves are different. Percale is evenly woven, and sateen has a longer horizontal weave.
In terms of feel, percale is like a crisp button-down shirt, and the ideal sateen has the smoothness of a vintage T that’s been washed tons of times.
Neither is “best,” so it all comes down to preference–like how cool or warm you like to sleep.
Percale feels crisp and cool and airy, but wrinkles easily. When done poorly they can feel scratchy and unrefined.
Sateen feels silkier and warmer, but is also more likely to pill. When done poorly they can look shiny and cheap.
Personally, I prefer the crispness of percale for that “hotel feel.” I also prefer natural materials, and sateen can sometimes feel synthetic, even if it’s not.
Note that since I was trying to get a sense of the entry-level options, I didn’t test out any specialty options, like linen or silk.
What were my initial thoughts right out of the box?
Parachute — “Whoa, these are more see-through than I thought they’d be? But the percale cotton feels nice and cool.”
Brooklinen — “Huh. The sateen is thin and smooth and not that much different from cheaper pillowcases?”
Riley — “Definitely thick, but the percale and sateen feel almost the same.”
Snowe — “Ahh, these feel SMOOTH”
But how they look right out of the box doesn’t mean much, because everyone knows you gotta wash your bed linens first before using them 🙂
Thread Counts, Country Origins, and Claims
I think it’s important to look at how a brand chooses to describe their products.
How transparent are they?
What words do they leave out?
Are they using a lot of marketing fluff, or are they more technical?
I read all the product descriptions on each website, and here’s a summary of the specs, plus my interpretations below:
A few observations:
Brooklinen lists the 270-thread count of their sheets and pillowcases. Parachute and Riley don’t. Although all three brands say that thread count doesn’t really matter, because there are only so many threads you can pack in a square inch.
Brooklinen pillows and comforters are made in Canada, but I couldn’t find anywhere on the website where they make their sheets and pillowcases.
Riley and Brooklinen don’t specify where the cotton comes from. Also noteworthy is how the Snowe sateen set does not say ‘Egyptian’ in it, unlike their percale.
But does ‘Egyptian’ really mean the cotton came from Egypt, or could that be fudged?
Parachute and Riley proudly display the fact that their sheets are made in Portugal. The percale Snowe sheets boast the highest thread count, and are notably milled and produced in Italy.
Overall, none are perfect, but I’d say that Snowe does the best job in terms of transparency.
Specs Aside, How Do the Materials Feel? The Two-Night Test.
Percale is all the same, right?
The Parachute and Brooklinen packages came on the same day, and I unboxed them together. I was surprised how starkly different the materials would feel, even though the specs were roughly the same.
Both Parachute and Brooklinen percale cases were thin and a little see-through, but the Parachute one felt like an old oxford shirt you’d wear to go sailing.
The Brooklinen one felt airier and crisper, and makes a satisfying crunch sound when you squeeze it.
The sateen options from both Parachute and Brooklinen felt vastly different from their percale counterparts, but both felt flimsy and a bit cheap.
Riley and Snowe felt most comparable to one another, using thicker fabrics and tighter weaves. It was much harder to tell the difference between the percales and the sateens.
Snowe’s percale was smoother than all the options, and like Brooklinen, made a crinkle sound when squeezed.
As for the sleep test? All the pillowcases tested fine, and I didn’t notice a real discernible difference in sleep quality.
But as I mentioned earlier, I prefer natural-feeling materials, so I vastly preferred the percale options. I also thought Snowe’s percale felt closest to hotel sheets–luxurious!
After looking at the size charts, I noticed the pillowcases had slight variances in dimensions, which is worth considering. For example, if you’ve got flatter pillows, they might not fill the case fully, and your pillows will look floppier.
A standard pillow is 20 inches x 26 inches.
Here’s how each pillowcase measured up, as well as fitted queen sheet:
|Brand||Queen Fitted Sheet||Standard Pillowcase Size|
|Parachute||60 x 80 x 16||20.5 X 26.5|
|Brooklinen||60 x 80 x 15||20 x 27|
|Riley||60 x 80 x 16||20 X 28|
|Snowe||60 x 80 x 17||20 x 32|
For some beds, Brooklinen’s set might be too small, and if you have a deeper mattress, then Snowe might offer the best fit.
How They Looked Right Out of the Dryer
This is also an important criteria, because some people prefer a more lived-in look, while others want a neater polish without having to break out an iron.
I washed all of them warm and threw them in the dryer–ignoring any special washing rules.
Nothing ground-breaking here: every pillowcase came out of the dryer wrinkly. Although various degrees of wrinkly. Parachute, Brooklinen and Snowe looked lovingly well-worn, and Riley’s looked a bit messier.
One thing to note is that the decorative topstitching on the Riley pillowcases came out wavy out of the dryer.
But note that once you put the pillowcase on your pillow the wrinkles tend to smooth out a bit.
I first started looking at Parachute, because their pillowcases come with two different enclosures: a back flap and a side opening. I was curious about a pillowcase that doesn’t have an open side, because I wanted my bed to look put together, but in an effortless way.
The Brooklinen cases also have a hidden side enclosure, which keeps your pillow from sliding out and looks neater, and is easier to stuff your pillow into than the Parachute one. I prefer Brooklinen’s enclosure method, although the topstitching on the outside does make the pillowcase look lower-end.
The Riley cases had a pretty Baratta stitch, which made them feel a little more luxe (although it wrinkled a lot out of the dryer). The Snowe pillowcases had a similar decorative topstitch that still looked good right out of the dryer.
Now for the fun part: let’s look at colors! Lack of colors, or the wrong hues, definitely stops me from buying bedding from traditional options.
Parachute has a nice array of classic options–all muted hues that mix well enough together. Standout colors are the coal, blush and indigo. Note that they offer even more colors in linen.
I thought Brooklinen had the least sophisticated color palette. The pink, blue and green skew a bit too warm for my taste. But they win in terms of offering fun prints. Their best colors are also reserved for their linen options.
UPDATE: Since this post was written, I’ve actually bought the percale in cream, and I absolutely love the color. It’s not quite as yellow as the swatch looks on the website.
Riley’s offering felt most traditional, similar to what I’d find at Macy’s, but with a few classic pinstripes mixed in. Overall, I found colors on their website hard to get a read on, since they seemed to do the most post-editing on their pictures.
Snowe offered the least number of colors. The only options I’d choose here are the classic white and blue.
Return Policies and Warranties
Return policies seem standardized to 90 days, even after the items have been washed and used. But one stands out head and shoulders above the rest.
While Brooklinen offers one of the most accessibly-priced products, they double down with their return policy: 365 days, as well as a lifetime guarantee. That means that if anything happens to your merchandise, you get a replacement for free. Good-to-know update: My friend actually had a snag in one of her sheets, e-mailed Brooklinen about it, and they said they’d replace it.
I also tested out how returns actually work for each brand. After all, I had eight sets of pillowcases. It was getting unwieldy.
Brooklinen has a returns website that walks you through the process step-by-step.
Parachute has a Returns page, and you can also return items in person at other businesses through their Happy Returns program. I chose to mail back the pillowcases.
For Snowe and Riley, I had to manually e-mail customer service to initiate a return.
Return shipping was covered by each brand.
My Personal Picks
While none of this bedding is going to change your life–and I’m not sure if any sheets truly can–they are a solid step up if you’re looking to upgrade from say, IKEA or Target. And since they only offer a few options, they do solve the problem of decision fatigue you’d encounter at a traditional shop.
Before the test, I couldn’t really tell you what features I was looking for in bedding. But in trying out multiple options, I was able to hone in on exactly what I was looking for.
Who knew I cared so much about aesthetics? I found myself gravitating towards the options with the specific colors I wanted, because yeah, there isn’t just one shade of white. And as for material, I never had an opinion before, but now I know am 100% a percale gal.
My personal picks:
Parachute, because they have the most sophisticated colors, and because I like the more worn-in feel of their percale cotton.
I also thought Snowe’s pillowcases looked and felt the most high-end, so I’m looking forward to getting the full sheet set.
Specific Recommendations by Feature
Based on my overall impressions, here’s who should be buying what:
Get the Brooklinen ones if you want the easiest, most accessibly-priced option. They have a lifetime warranty in case anything happens.
If you want the most sophisticated colors that all match well enough, go for Parachute.
Choose Riley for the thickest fabric that’s more likely to last longer.
And for the most luxurious feel, Snowe is for you.
For more specific needs, choose the quality below that matters most to you, with current promotions, if there are any:
- Most Budget-Friendly: Brooklinen (get $20 with code SUBWAY)
- Best Hassle-Free Returns and Lifetime Guarantee: Brooklinen (get $20 with code SUBWAY)
- Best Color Selection (Solids): Parachute
- Best Color Selection (Prints): Brooklinen (get $20 with code SUBWAY)
- Best Percale: Snowe (get $25 off your first order)
- Best Sateen: Riley
- Most Hotel-Like: Snowe (get $25 off your first order)
- Envelope Enclosure: Parachute or Brooklinen (get $20 with code SUBWAY)
- Nicest Finishing Details: Riley or Snowe (get $25 off your first order)
- Thickest Fabric: Riley
- Most Eco-Friendly Packaging: Brooklinen–they use paper wraps, no plastic. (get $20 with code SUBWAY)
Have an opinion on bed sheets? Sound off in the comments!
Featured Image: The Luxe Strategist