Princess Diana’s Original Sheep Sweater Just Sold for Over $1 Million—Here’s What It Looked Like Up Close

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Princess Diana Archive/Getty Images

For royal watchers, Princess Diana’s sheep sweater was the style moment that put the soon-to-be Princess of Wales on the sartorial map. Her courtship with the now-King Charles III back in 1980 was a whirlwind (the pair went on just 13 dates before getting engaged) and all eyes were on a 19-year-old Diana and the fairy tale romance that was unfolding before their eyes.

Fashion was a major part of that—and while the world fawned over her blue engagement suit and her sparkly sapphire ring, at the time, we were still getting to know the future Princess of Wales, who tragically would never be queen, but rather queen of our hearts.

diana sheep sweater sothebys auction
Tim Graham/Getty Images

That’s when she stepped out in the sheep sweater.

Dreamed up by a small U.K.-based knitwear brand called Warm & Wonderful, helmed by Joanna Osborne and Sally Muir, Diana wore it to a polo match in June of 1981. With its single black sheep, it’s a look that ultimately became legacy-defining and a metaphor for not quite fitting in, given the course of her relationship to Charles. Still, at the time, its vibrant red hue and playful sheep pattern became instantly iconic. A global interest in Diana’s fashion was born.

This brings me to last week when—along with my co-host of the Royally Obsessed podcast, Roberta Fiorito—we had the chance to see Diana’s original sheep sweater up close in person as it hit the auction block at Sotheby’s in New York. Originally slated to fetch between $50,000 and $80,000, it sold today for a whopping $1,143,000. (There were a total of 44 bids with the price jumping from $190,000 to over a million in the final 15 minutes.)

This week on the podcast, Cynthia Houlton, SVP and Global Head of Fashion and Accessories at Sotheby’s, shares the process that went into authenticating the original sweater, which was only recently discovered in the attic by Muir and Osborne. “Similarly to how we authenticate sports memorabilia, we use companies that specialize in photo matching,” Houlton explained. “It’s a bit of a forensic process—they look at pictures of Diana wearing the original sweater and we try to find as many angles and images as possible. Then we segment it into pieces to photo match very specific parts.”

But Houlton attests it was the distinctiveness of each one of these sweaters that made it much easier to verify. “While they were machine-made, they were hand-sewn together, so a lot of the uniqueness of each sweater is how the seams come together, exactly how the sheep were made and we had several points of match on her and this sweater.” (You can listen to more of this conversation in this week’s episode, available to stream here.)

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Princess Diana Archive/Getty Images

A reminder that the Princess of Wales ultimately owned not one, but two of her beloved Warm & Wonderful sheep sweaters, a discovery that was made by Elizabeth Holmes, journalist and author of HRH: So Many Thoughts on Royal Style, in 2020. Osborne and Muir confirmed this fact at the time (they even popped by the Royally Obsessed podcast) and shared that shortly after Diana first wore it, they had received a note from the palace about a snag in the cuff, along with a request to repair it. They opted to send the Princess of Wales a brand-new sweater instead. (This correspondence is included as part of the Sotheby’s auction lot.)

The rest is royal history. Diana famously wore the sweater a second time a couple of years later in 1983 and to another polo match, but her choice to pair it with a Peter Pan collar and long black bow made her style evolution apparent.

For those longing for their own piece of royal history, a note: Muir and Osborne partnered with Rowing Blazers in 2020 to bring back an updated version of the original sheep sweater.

As for who snagged the real deal today with the closing bid? Royal time will tell.

Rachel Bowie Headshot

Royal family expert, a cappella alum, mom

Rachel Bowie is Senior Director of Special Projects & Royals at PureWow, where she covers parenting, fashion, wellness and money in addition to overseeing initiatives within...