Black sheep jumper worn by Princess Diana to headline Fashion Icons sale

The jumper, which could be seen as a metaphor for her relationship with the British monarchy, will be auctioned by Sotheby’s

Back in 1979 two 20-somethings, Sally Muir and Joanna Osborne, designed a red knit jumper emblazoned with rows of white – and one black sheep – for their label Warm & Wonderful Knitwear, which they first started in a stall in London’s Covent Garden.

Subsequently, in June of 1981, a newly betrothed Diana Spencer attended one of Prince Charles’ summer polo matches wearing the jumper, decorated with the whimsical black and white sheep motif.

The designers first learned of Diana wearing the jumper when she appeared on the front page of one of the Sunday papers.

“Her influence was impactful almost immediately thereafter, leading to a surge in sales and public awareness of our small label,” Muir and Osborne said. That move put Warm and Wonderful on the map and subsequently David Bowie, Andy Warhol and others in the limelight became customers.


The company ceased production of the sweater in 1994, but they reissued the design in a 2020 collaboration with American designer Jack Carlson and his brand Rowing Blazers. In 2020, a replica of the sweater appeared in the fourth season of Netflix’s series The Crown, worn by actress Emma Corrin.

Though the “Diana Edition” can be purchased through a new release of the jumper on Rowing Blazers for about €300, the jumper Diana wore is now appearing on the market for the first time.

It will headline Sotheby’s inaugural Fashion Icons online sale in September, where it is expected to fetch between $50,000-$80,000 (€45,870-€73,392).

It’s a steep price for a cotton knit, but that is the world of collectables, where everything has a value. It also shows the true importance of provenance.

The sweater appears to be offered for sale on behalf of its original makers; back in the 1980s, a few weeks after its first outing, Muir and Osborne received an official request from Buckingham Palace explaining that Diana had damaged her much loved jumper. She requested either a repair or replacement.

The company knitted a new jumper entirely (no repairs for a woman who could be a future British queen), to which they received a thank-you letter from her private secretary Oliver Everett. To commemorate the occasion, a sweater of the same design now resides in London’s Victoria and Albert Museum.

In what Sotheby’s call “an unexpected twist”, last March, while Muir and Osborne were “rummaging through the attic searching for an old pattern”, they spotted a small box. Inside, tucked away beside a cotton bedspread, was Diana’s original 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.

It’s clearly not just the jumper, but the fact that it was worn by Diana that makes this piece interesting. It is the black sheep as a metaphor, for the sometimes complex relationship Diana had with the British monarchy.

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Elizabeth Birdthistle

Elizabeth Birdthistle

Elizabeth Birdthistle, a contributor to The Irish Times, writes about property, fine arts, antiques and collectables