NEW YORK – An iconic red sweater worn by Princess Diana shortly after her engagement to then-Prince Charles, featuring rows of fluffy little sheep, sold at auction for more than US$1.1 million (S$1.5 million) following a frenetic bout of final bidding, Sotheby’s announced on Thursday.
The 19-year-old sported the knit garment – which includes one black sheep amid dozens of otherwise white wooly creatures – at a June 1981 polo match during her whirlwind days as a shy royal-in-the-making.
The playfully patterned “Black Sheep” sweater became one of the most emblematic articles of clothing worn by Diana, which in hindsight seems to foretell her troubled journey as a member of the British royal family.
The garment nabbed US$1.1 million – which includes fees and commission – after a fierce battle by Internet bidders.
The total was over 10 times more than Sotheby’s initial estimate of between US$50,000 to US$80,000.
Due to an avalanche of bids, the auction house extended the sale by several minutes, with the price leaping from US$190,000 to US$1.1 million in the final 15 minutes.
According to Sotheby’s, it is the highest price ever paid at auction for a garment belonging to Princess Diana – eclipsing her Infanta-style ball gown sold in January for US$604,000 – as well as the most valuable sweater ever sold at auction.
The sweater was created by then-little-known designers Sally Muir and Joanna Osborne and their knitting company Warm and Wonderful, which was subsequently catapulted to fame.
Weeks after Diana was photographed in the top, the designers received a letter explaining that one of the sweater’s sleeves had suffered damage, and asking if it could be repaired or replaced.
The designers sent her a new one and had assumed the original was repaired and sent to a customer. But in March 2023, Ms Osborne found the sweater in a small box in her attic.
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