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An auction for fans: From Lady Di’s iconic sweater to Carrie Bradshaw’s wedding headdress

Sotheby’s ‘Fashion Icons’ collection, open to bids from August 31 to September 14, includes mythical garments from fashion legends like Madonna and Lauren Bacall. The most prized items belonged to the princess of Wales

Lady Di Familia Real Británica
Sarah Jessica Parker playing Carrie in the ‘Sex and the City’ movie, and Diana of Wales at a polo game in 1981.getty

At a polo game in June 1981, freshly engaged to then-prince Charles, Lady Diana Spencer showed off a red sweater with a sheep pattern. All were white except a single black sheep, which caught the attention of the entire world. Many understood it as a metaphor for the woman who was about to become the princess of Wales, as if she wanted to express that she felt like an outsider within the flock of the British royal family. The now-mythical jersey, designed by Warm and Wonderful, was damaged, and the brand received an official letter from Buckingham palace requesting its reparation or replacement. They immediately knit a new sweater and sent it to Diana, who would show it off again at a polo game in 1983. The original had been forgotten in a box in the attic of Sally Muir and Joanna Osborn, creators of Warm and Wonderful. They found it last March while searching for an old pattern, and they couldn’t believe that it had been there for more than four decades. As of August 31, Sotheby’s New York will put the garment up for auction.

The sweater known as “Black Sheep” headlines the inaugural sale of the Fashion Icons auction, with online bids available from August 31 to September 14 (during New York Fashion Week). The sweater, whose sleeve cuff was damaged by Lady Di herself, will be auctioned along with the two official letters requesting the repair. It is expected to reach a final price between $50,000 and $80,000. Even so, the true crown jewel will be another garment worn by the former princess of Wales: an evening dress by Murray Arbeid that Lad Di wore twice in 1985, at Prince Edward’s 21st birthday party and at a banquet at London’s Mansion House. The black velvet strapless dress, which opens into a silhouette of white taffeta, could go for between $80,000 and $120,000, according to the auction house’s estimates.

But the auction isn’t about Princess Diana, but about fashion icons. And one of the fashion icons par excellence, though a fictional character, is Carrie Bradshaw. The wardrobe of Sarah Jessica Parker’s character in Sex and the City has inspired endless trends. For fans, one accessory is unforgettable: the bird headdress that completed her bridal look for her failed wedding with Mr. Big in 2008, in the first movie about the show.

The accessory was her “something blue.” The auction house expects it to go to between $40,000 and $70,000. Catalogued as “Vintage Taxidermied Bird of Paradise Headpiece,” it combines a green bird’s head with a small purple feather and several larger blue features. “From the moment the world caught a glimpse of Carrie Bradshaw’s wedding ensemble in 2008′s Sex and The City: The Movie, the bird headpiece became one of the most memorable pieces worn by Sarah Jessica Parker’s beloved character,” the auction house wrote on Instagram. The famous accessory reappeared in the first episode of the second season of And Just Like That, the sequel to Sex in the City, when Carrie shows off her nuptial outfit at the Met Gala. The auction house warns that the lot “contains endangered species” and therefore should be “shipped to its final destination within the United States or personally picked up in New York.” Sotheby’s recommends that buyers consult with their governments about any importation requirements before making an offer.

Detail of the ‘Vintage Taxidermied Bird of Paradise Headpiece’ worn by Carrie Bradshaw in an image from Sotheby’s.
Detail of the ‘Vintage Taxidermied Bird of Paradise Headpiece’ worn by Carrie Bradshaw in an image from Sotheby’s.Sotheby's

Fans of Titanic, or its star Kate Winslet, will also be able to bid on the Givenchy dress that the actress wore at the 1998 Oscars gala, when she was nominated for Best Actress for playing Rose. “It was like embroidered sculpture. I have to be honest, the dress was not entirely comfortable to wear. Or sit down in. But it was worth it because he had made it,” the actress confessed in a 2021 interview. The outfit, inspired by the film’s Edwardian-style wardrobe, is made of green silk. It has gold hand embroidery and crystal beads in the shape of willow leaves and a dragonfly. It is estimated that it will go for between $30,000 to $60,000.

Actress Kate Winslet at the 1998 Oscars.
Actress Kate Winslet at the 1998 Oscars.Jim Smeal (Getty Images)

That price point is the same one expected for the dress that Michelle Obama wore for a Christmas benefit gala in 2010. The former First Lady wore a vintage black lace dress. It captivated the public and the media, because it was the first time that she chose a secondhand garment for a public event. It was the first time that any First Lady did. During her eight years in the position, Michelle Obama prompted sustainability through initiatives like planting a garden in the White House and organizing a farmers market, the auction house notes. Her decision to wear a vintage couture dress, designed by Norman Norell, considered the father of haute couture in the United States, represents her defense of the environment.

Obama
Michelle Obama wearing the dress now at auction, Sasha Obama, Barack Obama and Malia Obama at a Christmas benefit gala in 2010.Kevin Mazur (WireImage)

The auction includes a small contribution by another indisputable icon: Madonna. The French, Italian and Spanish editors of Vanity Fair chose her to appear simultaneously on the first page of the three European editions last January, as the pioneer of a series of covers dedicated to legends who have influenced modern culture. Like everything the singer does, the cover photo did not go unnoticed. The queen of pop appeared dressed as Our Lady of Sorrows, with tears in her eyes and covered with a black mantilla above a white lace veil. Many criticized her for using religious symbols in a way they considered disrespectful. More than used to criticism, she recognized in the interview with the magazine that it was “a good time” in her life: “I’m gathering ideas, getting inspired, hanging out with creative people, watching films, seeing art, listening to music.” The white lace veil used in the controversial photoshoot is part of the Sotheby’s auction. Its origin is attributed to 1910 Brussels, and the auction house estimates that bids will reach a price between $10,000 and $30,000.

Four more lots complete the collection: four Hermés bags that belonged to Lauren Bacall, the legendary actress and symbol of American style in the 1940s. The four bags from her private collection, all from 1972 and 1973, are estimated to go from $1,000 to $12,000. For those who want to see the lots up close, they will be displayed in the New York auction house from September 7 to 13.

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