Princess Diana wearing her iconic Black Sheep sweater.
Photo: Courtesy of Sotheby's

Auction of the Week: Princess Diana’s Iconic Black Sheep Sweater Commands $1.1 Million

The cozy jumper, made by knitwear label Warm & Wonderful, was sold by Sotheby’s and caused a final-hour bidding frenzy

Diana, Princess of Wales (1961 - 1997) wearing 'Black sheep' wool jumper by Warm and Wonderful (Muir & Osborne) to Windsor Polo, June 1981. (Photo by Tim Graham Photo Library via Getty Images) Photo:

In June of 1981, a newly engaged Lady Diana Spencer attended one of Prince Charles’s polo matches sporting a bright red sweater decorated with a whimsical black and white sheep motif. One of the first pieces created by Sally Muir and Joanna Osborne and their knitwear label Warm & Wonderful, the sweater caused a global media sensation, sparking speculation on what message she might be trying to convey to the world and for bucking the societal fashion norms at the time.

Appearing on the market for the first time last week, the iconic Black Sheep sweater soared above pre-sale expectations during Sotheby’s inaugural Fashion Icons auction, selling for $1.1 million—establishing a new auction record for any article of clothing worn by the late Princess, as well as the most valuable sweater ever sold at auction.

“From her early years as a shy and reserved royal to her later years as a confident and independent woman, Princess Diana’s fashion choices broke the mold by reflecting the changing social climate and embracing evolving perceptions of femininity,” says Cynthia Houlten, Sotheby’s Global Head of Fashion and Accessories. “By combining high-end designer pieces with more attainable everyday apparel, Diana’s style led to a wave of imitation and admiration. This exceptional garment, meticulously preserved, carries the whispers of Princess Diana’s grace, charm, and her keen eye for fashion.”

The iconic original sheep sweater. Photo: Courtesy of Sothebys

The story included a few plot twists. In 1983, the two designers received a letter from Buckingham Palace explaining that Princess Diana had damaged her original sheep sweater, and requested for it to be repaired or replaced. An entirely newly knitted sweater was sent to her, and Muir and Osborne received a thank you note from Princess Diana’s private secretary. Shortly after, Princess Diana wore the sweater again, this time with white jeans, a large white collar, and a black ribbon tie. The whereabouts of the original sweater worn by Diana in 1981 were unknown until last March, when it was discovered in a small box in the attic of Muir and Osborne.

Princess Diana in 1983. Photo: Photograph from Princess Diana Archive / Getty

“Since stumbling upon the sweater in March of this year, we have been reliving the fond memories of Princess Diana appearing on the front pages of every newspaper in 1981, wearing our very own sweater,” said Muir and Osborne. “While we are forever indebted to her for the impact this had on our business, our deepest appreciation lies in the knowledge that she shared a unique connection to the black sheep design.”

The price eclipses the $604,800 achieved for Princess Diana’s “Infanta” Style Ball Gown designed by Victor Edelstein, sold at Sotheby’s in New York earlier this year. In January 2023, Sotheby’s also sold the amethyst and diamond “Attallah Cross” worn on multiple occasions by the late Princess for $197,453 to Kim Kardashian.

Cover: Princess Diana wearing her iconic Black Sheep sweater.
Photo: Courtesy of Sotheby's


Sign up to receive the best in art, design, and culture from Galerie

Thank You
Your first newsletter will arrive shortly.