Princess Diana's Iconic Piece of Clothing Sells for Millions

It is now considered "the most valuable sweater ever sold at auction."

The famous red and white sheep sweater owned by Princess Diana sold for $1.14 million this week at auction in New York, breaking records. Referred to as Diana Spencer at the time, she enjoyed wide popularity but was frequently harassed by the British tabloid media during her lifetime. Prior to her marriage to Charles, now King Charles III, she wore the woolly item with its distinctive black sheep in 1981. An unidentified bidder bought the sweater, now referred to in the British press as the "black sheep jumper," at Sotheby's auction house in New York on Thursday evening for $1.14 million during its inaugural Fashion Icons auction, beating pre-auction estimates of $80,000 by a significant amount.

Sotheby's said in a statement that it set 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." The previous record for a sweater was a green cardigan owned by Kurt Cobain, which sold for $334,000 in 2019. A 15-minute bidding war resulted in 44 bids for Diana's sweater from 12 countries. She wore it to a polo match attended by Charles at the age of 19. Among the auction lot was a pair of official letters from Buckingham Palace in 1981 to a small London design company called Warm & Wonderful explaining that one of the jumpers had a damaged cuff and asking whether the jumper could be repaired or replaced.

Sally Muir and Joanna Osborne, the company's co-founders, sent Diana a new sweater she wore to another polo match in 1983. This year, Osborne discovered the damaged original in a small wine box in an attic, Sotheby's said. Following that, it was confirmed that it was Princess Diana's original sheep jumper from more than 40 years ago and was sent to auction. "Since stumbling upon the sweater in March of this year, we have been reliving the fond memories of Princess Diana," a joint statement by the co-founders of the company said, adding that they were "forever indebted to her" for having such an impact on the success of their company. "We are thrilled that this cherished sweater has now found a new home, carrying with it the enduring legacy of Princess Diana."

Among Diana's most "enticing features was her approach to fashion which differed greatly from that of her predecessors and challenged societal expectations," according to Sotheby's. Many interpreted Diana's fashion choices as a statement of her personal brand. "It's an obvious metaphor for not quite fitting in," Cynthia Houlton, SVP and Global Head of Fashion and Accessories at Sotheby's, said on the company's website about the piece. "But also, that it's okay to stand out and be different."

It is also worth mentioning that another memorable piece of Diana's fashion comes in the form of the black off-shoulder minidress she wore in 1994, which also happened to be designed by the Greek designer Christina Stambolian and called the "revenge dress." The night her husband admitted his repeated adultery on television, she wore this dress to a gala at London's Serpentine Gallery. It was an instant hit, and the scene was also portrayed in Netflix's drama The Crown.