September 22, 2023

What the sheep sweater worn by Princess Diana really implies

  • September 14, 2023
  • 2 min read
What the sheep sweater worn by Princess Diana really implies

This week, Sotheby’s will hold an auction featuring a famous item from British royal history: neither diamond. It’s a red novelty pullover with a comical sheep print by indie brand Warm and Wonderful, not a tiara or a couture ball gown. In June 1981, Lady Diana Spencer, then 19 years old, wore the sweater to a polo match. Where she cheered on her fiance Prince Charles.

Four months had passed since they announced their engagement, and much has been said. Since then, there has been talk about this fashion trend and the knitted pattern. One black sheep and a number of white sheep. Diana made a sly reference to how she perceived herself in the Royal Family—as the odd one out, the author claimed.


But was this sartorial decision really a conscious expression of the teen Diana’s feelings and fears? Was Lady Diana’s veiled indication to the public that she felt like a “black sheep” and an outsider? According to Eleri Lynn, a Trustee at the Royal School of Needlework and author, curator, and fashion historian. We’re likely interpreting it more broadly in hindsight, says Lynn.

“I don’t think she would have understood the concept of the ‘one black sheep’ at that time, or that she even understood the significance of the clothing she wore. She was still a very young woman, finding her own sense of fashion.

In terms of dress, she was distinctly of her era. She was wearing like her friends and was being extremely frivolous with her attire. She has not yet developed the ability to express herself through clothing.

The 1980s were all about colorful (sometimes clashing) colors and bold statements, which Sally Tuckett, a fashion historian at Glasgow University, concurs with. This is especially true of the knitwear designs of the time. The “black sheep” jumper fits in with this wonderfully, especially given the contrasting colors and repeated sheep pattern, and it also testifies to the emergence of British knitwear and design at this period.

Read More: According to Deborah Nicholls-Lee, the “Wild Beasts”

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