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Thursday, April 11, 2024

Princess Diana’s Historic ‘Black Sheep’ Jumper: A New Milestone in Fashion Auctions

Through an engaging narrative, the article recounts the saga of Princess Diana's iconic 'Black Sheep' jumper and how it crossed thresholds from royal insignia to a historic auction favorite at Sotheby's. The piece provides an in-depth review of the garment's socio-cultural significance, its parallel to Diana's royal narrative, and its immense impact on the fashion landscape.

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Russell Weaver
Russell Weaver
Russell Weaver is a renowned writer, celebrated for his vibrant storytelling and intricate world-building. Beyond being an writer, he's an artist, dedicated to crafting stories that captivate, transform, and linger.
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Way back in June 1981, puppets of fate knitted an unforgettable chapter in the annals of fashion, starring a 19-year-old Lady Diana Spencer, then betrothed to Prince Charles, who would later become the celebrated Princess of Wales or Princess Diana.

She stepped out to grace her fiance’s polo match clad in a vivid red jumper, a tapestry of farm animals grazing on it, all white sheep except for a standout black one. Fast forward to the present day, this charming top garnered an extraordinary $1.1 million at a Sotheby’s sale, seizing the crown as the most expensive sweater auctioned in history.

Dubbed the ‘sheep jumper’, it marked the dawn of Princess Diana’s reign as a fashion monarch. An emblem of her sartorial prowess, it was her first shot in an illustrious fashion journey that captivated paparazzi and commoners alike. This garment, a true relic of her unique fashion narrative, ended up being the most pricey apparel of Princess Diana’s ever-striking wardrobe to go under the hammer at Sotheby’s “Fashion Icons” auction. The event also showcased other monumental sartorial pieces donned by Michelle Obama, Madonna, and Kate Winslet, not forgetting a selection of Princess Diana’s evening gowns.

Princess Diana Black Sheep Jumper

Princess Diana‘s historic jumper emerged from over 40 years of obscurity, stored under an unassuming cotton bedspread in an attic. It wasn’t a deliberate donation nor a prized piece safeguarded as part of the illustrious royal estate. Instead, it found its way into daylight in March this year during an attic cleanse. The brainchild of Joanna Osborne and Sally Muir, this knitwear piece was created for their brand, Warm & Wonderful. Prior to Diana’s endorsement, their company was but a modestly prospering venture.

Post the electrifying media blitz of Princess Diana wearing their sheep jumper, Warm & Wonderful quit its innocuous nature and bloomed into a fully functional commercial entity. The avalanche of public response was so overwhelming that the creative duo had to rope in their friends’ teenage kids just to cope with the barrage of mails. They even began showcasing their designs at the New York Fashion Week, a prospect they had vaguely considered before.

In the aftermath of the polo match, the designers recollect receiving a note from Buckingham Palace, penned by Diana’s personal secretary Oliver Everett, enclosing the tattered jumper with a plea for ‘repairs or replacement’. They responded by tailoring a brand-new edition, which Princess Diana wore to another polo match in June 1983. The original sheep jumper then went into oblivion until its recent rediscovery during an attic clean-up, after which they brought it to Sotheby’s for evaluation and subsequent acquisition.

The ‘black sheep’ jumper served not only as a testament of Princess Diana’s fashion influence but also symbolized her own narrative within the royal lineage. Similar to the black sheep portrayed on her jumper, she was also seen as an outcast amidst the royal sheepfold. Adored as “the people’s princess” for her unconventional ways, she never found wholehearted acceptance within the august walls of the royal family. In her own words during a 1991 interview with Andrew Morton, she admitted feeling like ‘a lamb to the slaughter’, a chilling revelation that offers a new perspective on the hidden significance of this simple yet powerful jumper.

As per the Sotheby’s statement by the designers, their utmost gratitude lay in realizing Diana’s unmistakable affinity for their black sheep design. The legacy of the beloved Princess Diana lives on, captured in the threads and knots of this once-overlooked jumper now breathing new life in its newfound abode.

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