Princess Diana's 'Black Sheep' Sweater Sells For $1.1 Million

The recognizable piece fetched a price 14 times higher than the expected amount—making it the most expensive sweater and piece of Diana memorabilia ever sold at auction. 

Princess Diana Spencer’s “Black Sheep” sweater has finally gone under the hammer after its auction was announced earlier in June. Sotheby’s sold the knitwear in its Fashion Icons auction in New York, which also coincided with New York Fashion Week. The piece was the star of the show with a total of 44 bids, as per CNN. It fetched a total of $1,143,000 after an intense 15-minute bidding war towards the tail end of its two-week sale. 

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Diana wearing Warm & Wonderful’s “Black Sheep” sweater
Diana wearing Warm & Wonderful’s “Black Sheep” sweater/Photo via Instagram @warmandwonderful

This makes the piece the most valuable sweater sold at auction, beating the cardigan worn by Nirvana member Kurt Kobain (which Sotheby’s sold for $334,000 in 2019). It also precedes the $604,800 fetched by Diana’s Victor Edelstein ball gown earlier this year. 

Statement Piece

The sweater was made by British fashion brand Warm & Wonderful, helmed by designers Sally Muir and Joanna Osborne. Diana originally wore the piece during an 1983 polo match, just shortly after she got engaged with King Charles III, as per ArtNews

Diana wearing a second version of the black sheep sweater during another polo match
Diana wearing a second version of the black sheep sweater during another polo match/Photo from the Sotheby’s official website

The Princess of Wales has always been sartorially-gifted, and the unique sweater is no exception to this fact. While some may simply praise it for its cute design, others have speculated that it signifies Diana’s feelings of alienation as someone marrying into the British royal family. In a more positive light, it may also signify Diana’s unique personality and mindset. 

“We just threw in the black sheep as a bit of a joke,” shared designer Sally Muir in a Sotheby’s video interview. “But it is quite interesting how the black sheep has changed over the years. People read much more into it.”

The Black Sheep sweater from Warm & Wonderful
The Black Sheep sweater from Warm & Wonderful/Photo via Instagram @warmandwonderful

“It’s now become such a very positive thing,” added Joanna Osborne. “It’s about being a maverick, standing out from the crowd, being different, being special in a really good way.” 

The Original

Perhaps the most intriguing thing about the sweater is its origins. The piece was one of the first six designs to be released by Warm & Wonderful. In 1981, it cost $50 and was fairly accessible to most people. Still, despite this, it managed to fetch an even higher amount compared to couture or designer pieces owned by the late Diana. The buyer of the knitwear remains anonymous, though Muir and Osborne are curious to know who spent over a million dollars on their old piece. 

Warm & Wonderful’s designers, Johanna Osborne and Sally Muir
Warm & Wonderful’s designers, Johanna Osborne and Sally Muir/Photo via Instagram @warmandwonderful

“It’s all confidential unless it goes to a museum and then we might find out. It’s kind of frustrating but also quite intriguing because of course we have been speculating!” shared Muir with People

Diana loved the sweater so much that she requested if it could be repaired when its cuffs got damaged. Buckingham Palace sent it back to Warm & Wonderful, and upon assessing the situation, the two designers decided to knit a new piece for the Princess of Wales instead. 

Original correspondences between Buckingham Palace and Warm & Wonderful are included with the auction lot
Original correspondences between Buckingham Palace and Warm & Wonderful are included with the auction lot/Photo via Instagram @warmandwonderful

So the very first sweater remained tucked in the designers’ attic until recently. Once they found the piece, which was in surprisingly good condition, they contacted Sotheby’s for their assistance. 

Initially, the auction house estimated that the sweater would sell for $50,000 to $80,000, but clearly, its value far exceeded this. 

“It’s a very old jumper already, and we didn’t really want the responsibility,” Muir explained to CNN. “It’s time for somebody else to have the responsibility of looking after it.”

“[The sweater is] just an incredible thing. It’s enduring,” added Osborne. “It keeps on giving.” 

Banner photo via Instagram @warmandwonderful.

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