Princess Diana’s Black Sheep Sweater sells at $1.1 million

Princess Diana’s famous red sweater, adorned with rows of fluffy sheep, fetched over $1.1 million in a spirited final bidding war, Sotheby’s revealed on Thursday. Diana, at 19, wore this distinctive knitwear, featuring one black sheep amidst a sea of white woolly creatures, at a polo match in June 1981, during her early days as a tentative royal-to-be.

This whimsically patterned “Black Sheep” sweater became one of Diana’s most iconic pieces of clothing, now seen as a prelude to her challenging journey within the British royal family. The sweater secured a total of $1.1 million, inclusive of fees and commission, after an intense battle among online bidders.

This amount far surpassed Sotheby’s initial estimate of $50,000 to $80,000. Due to a surge of bids, the auction was extended by several minutes, with the price soaring from $190,000 to $1.1 million in the final quarter-hour.

Sotheby’s noted that this sale represents the highest price ever paid at auction for a garment belonging to Princess Diana, surpassing the sale of her Infanta-style ball gown for $604,000 in January. It also stands as the most valuable sweater ever sold at auction.

Crafted by then-little-known designers Sally Muir and Joanna Osborne and their knitting company, Warm and Wonderful, the sweater’s popularity skyrocketed after Diana wore it. A few weeks later, the designers received a letter reporting some damage to one of the sweater’s sleeves, and inquiring if it could be repaired or replaced. They promptly sent her a new one and assumed the original was fixed and sent to a customer. However, in March 2023, Osborne found the sweater in a small box in her attic.

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The auction lot also included the letter requesting repair, along with a thank-you note from Diana’s private secretary, Oliver Everett. The sweater’s iconic status was such that it even made an appearance (albeit a replica) in the fourth season of the Netflix series “The Crown,” which chronicles recent history of the House of Windsor.

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