When she wore it, it sparked speculation that the black sheep might symbolise how the young royal felt about herself.
The beginnings of a fashion icon.
A newly engaged Diana Spencer wore this jumper to watch her future husband, Prince Charles, play polo back in 1981.
The ‘black sheep’ motif was a little hint of the 19-year-old’s humour and sense of style.
And while the item is not from a high-end designer brand, it was much-treasured in the princess’s glamorous wardrobe.
Letters from Buckingham Palace to the manufacturer requested a repair or replacement after it was damaged.
Cynthia Houlton, Global Head of Fashion at Sotheby’s, said the sweater sent a message: “The theme of the sweater – one black sheep among the white sheep – did Princess Diana feel like she was the black sheep? There’s certainly a lot of speculation.
“But what’s interesting is this has never come to market. And while there has been speculation, the letters actually prove how much the sweater meant to her.”
The manufacturer – knitwear label Warm & Wonderful – recently rediscovered the sweater in storage.
It was sent to them by Buckingham Palace, but instead of repairing it, they sent the princess a new one.
The damage on the original can still be seen on the cuff.
The rumour is that Diana ripped it on her engagement ring.
Whatever the truth, it was an early example of the late Princess of Wales using her clothes to send a message.
“I think Princess Diana really used fashion as a way to communicate,” says Houtlon.
“If we think of influencers today, influencers make a decision of what pieces they wear to reflect their values, what they think is important, and Princess Diana did this throughout her life. And she really mixed high and low pieces. Now, we think that’s a very common thing, but that’s something that she did before other folks really did.”
Sotheby’s has put an estimate of €50,000 to €80,000 on the lot.
But recent auctions of Diana’s clothing have gone for much higher than expected – Sotheby’s sold one of her dresses for more than €600,000 earlier this year.
So the final sale price could easily be a six-figure sum.
“Certainly we’ve seen an increase in valuation and demand. The reason for the demand is really supply and demand. There are really, truly only a few fashion icons and she is certainly at the top of everyone’s list, and there are only few pieces that are ever going to come to market as time moves forward. And so I think that’s also what’s driving up the valuations,” says Houlton.
The online auction will take place from 31 August to 14 September.