The sweater, a red pattern featuring a swath of white sheep and a lone black sheep, just sold on Sotheby’s for US$1.143 million (CA$1.544 million.)
The sale, which fetched a total of 44 bids, marks a world record for a sweater sold at auction. A 15-minute battle near closing time drove the sale from a paltry $190,000 to $900,000. With fees, the lucky buyer will pay more than $1.1 million.
#AuctionUpdate: Frenzied bidding pushed Princess Diana's historic black sheep Warm & Wonderful sweater to sell at $1.1 million today in our inaugural Fashion Icons auction at #SothebysNewYork. pic.twitter.com/zyUYfuuS3Q
— Sotheby's (@Sothebys) September 14, 2023
Known commonly as the “black sheep” sweater, a 19-year-old Diana was photographed wearing the jumper in 1981 while attending one of the polo matches of the now King Charles, to whom she was engaged to at the time.
According to Sotheby’s, the quirky knit’s sale eclipses the previous record holder — the cardigan worn by Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain when he performed onstage during MTV’s Unplugged, which sold for $334,000 in 2019.
The black sheep sweater was designed by Sally Muir and Joanna Osborne under their Warm & Wonderful label and began selling in the early 1980s. The price of one of the sweaters at that time was around $50.
Following the 1981 polo match, the sweater was sent back to Muir and Osborne for repair, as the cuff had become damaged. Instead of repairing the sweater, the designers sent Diana a replacement and placed her original sweater in storage.
She was seen wearing the replacement in 1983, again at a polo match of Charles’.
The original sweater was forgotten about until last year, when Osborne discovered it in an old quilt box in her attic.
“We are thrilled that this cherished sweater has now found a new home, carrying with it the enduring legacy of Princess Diana,” said Muir and Osborne in a statement.
While the sweater’s pattern, at glance, is bright and whimsical, it’s gathered darker meaning over time with many drawing comparison between the lone black sheep on the sweater to Diana’s struggle to fit in with the royal family and find her footing within The Firm.
Sotheby’s originally estimated that the sweater would fetch somewhere between $50,000 and $80,000 at auction. However, it’s clear they underestimated the interest in the piece of clothing.
The sweater, too, now holds the record sale price for an item from Diana’s closet. The previous item was a maroon, strapless Victor Edelstein ball gown designed for her in 1989, which fetched $604,800 at auction earlier this year.
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