DIANA’S ORIGINAL WARM & WONDERFUL SWEATER TO GO TO AUCTION AT SOTHEBY’S
The auction house Sotheby’s announced today that it will be bringing to auction Princess Diana’s own personal Warm & Wonderful sheep sweater as the star piece in its first annual Fashion Icons sale this coming September during New York Fashion Week.
This is the same sweater that was recently rediscovered by Warm & Wonderful’s founders, Joanna Osborne and Sally Muir, and which served as the basis for the recently-released “Diana Edition” Sheep Sweater in Cotton".
In June of 1981, a newly engaged Lady Diana Spencer attended one of Prince Charles’s summer polo matches, donning a 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 soon took the world by storm, creating a massive viral and cultural moment. Carefully dissecting the sweater’s symbolism and why it resonated with Diana so deeply, the sweater ignited conversations amongst global media, fashion critics, and of course, the general public. Muir and Osborne credit the stratospheric launch of their small business to this advertisement of a lifetime, which catapulted Warm & Wonderful into the public sphere.
“THIS PAST MARCH, AS WE WERE RUMMAGING THROUGH THE ATTIC SEARCHING FOR AN OLD PATTERN, WE SPOTTED A SMALL BOX. INSIDE, TUCKED AWAY BESIDE A COTTON BEDSPREAD WAS DIANA’S ORIGINAL SHEEP SWEATER FROM 1981.”
Appearing on the market for the first time, this sweater, famously worn by Diana in 1981, is sure to captivate collectors and fashion enthusiasts alike as it is set to headline Sotheby’s inaugural Fashion Icons sale this September, with online bidding open from August 31 through September 13 — during New York Fashion Week — and will be displayed in New York starting September 7. The sweater is offered with an estimate of $50/80,000 (£40,000 - £70,000).
Cynthia Houlton, Sotheby’s Global Head of Fashion & Accessories, commented: “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. By combining high-end designer pieces with more attainable everyday apparel, Diana’s style led to a wave of imitation and admiration — which remains steadfast to this day — leaving an indelible mark on the fashion world and solidifying the Princess as an icon in fashion history. This exceptional garment, meticulously preserved, carries the whispers of Princess Diana's grace, charm, and her keen eye for fashion. It’s an honor to offer this historic sweater in our inaugural Fashion Icons auction, placing it in dialogue with other memorable and culturally important items of clothing.”
“THIS EXCEPTIONAL GARMENT, METICULOUSLY PRESERVED, CARRIES THE WHISPERS OF DIANA’S GRACE, CHARM, AND HER KEEN EYE FOR FASHION.”
Sally Muir and Joanna Osborne, Warm & Wonderful Founders, commented: “Much to our amazement, the first we knew of Lady Diana Spencer wearing the sweater was when we saw her on the front page of one of the Sunday newspapers. Her influence was impactful almost immediately thereafter, leading to a surge in sales and public awareness of our small label, for which we will be forever grateful.”
A few weeks after this first outing, Muir and Osborne received an official letter from Buckingham Palace politely explaining that Diana had damaged her much-loved sheep sweater and requested either a repair or replacement. A new sweater was knitted entirely, and the designers later received additional correspondence from the Palace — a grateful thank you letter from her private secretary, Oliver Everett CVO. Potent to the sweater’s legacy, a Warm & Wonderful sheep sweater of the same design now resides in the permanent collection of London’s Victoria and Albert Museum.
Warm & Wonderful, who stopped producing the black sheep style in 1994, reissued the design in 2020 for the first time in collaboration with American designer Jack Carlson and his brand Rowing Blazers, which is known for its traditional craftsmanship and sense of fun — in turn, immortalizing the beloved emblem of fashion history for a new generation. The same year, a replica of the sweater appeared in the fourth season of Netflix’s series, “The Crown,” worn by actress Emma Corrin. Since then, Carlson has helped to lead the brand’s revival in partnership with Osborne and Muir.
The story goes on to have an unexpected twist, with Muir noting: “This past March, as we were rummaging through the attic searching for an old pattern, we spotted a small box. Inside, tucked away beside a cotton bedspread was Diana’s original red sheep sweater from 1981. Now, almost four decades later, this one-of-a-kind sheep sweater is ready to make its way into the hands of a fortunate collector.”
What was it about this sweater that captivated millions of commentators and protected the design against the test of time? There was often speculation by the media as to whether Diana felt a connection to the lone black sheep, in regard to her complex relationship with The Royal Family. Others believe the sheep pattern could be interpreted as a nod to British agricultural history and a celebration of the countryside. Moreover, sheep are often linked to concepts of innocence, gentleness, and purity — associations that align with Diana’s compassionate and kind demeanor, and her role as a committed mother and dedicated philanthropist.