Home Beauty Richard Dalton was Princess Diana’s personal hairdresser for more than a decade. He revealed his favorite moments with her and what it was like to style, know, and love the People’s Princess.

Richard Dalton was Princess Diana’s personal hairdresser for more than a decade. He revealed his favorite moments with her and what it was like to style, know, and love the People’s Princess.

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Richard Dalton saw Diana every day for over a decade—“sometimes twice a day, depending on the tiara.”

In 1978, Princess Diana, then Lady Diana Frances Spencer, first walked into hairdresser Richard Dalton’s salon at age 17. The pair didn’t know it then, but their meeting would mark not only the beginning of her journey as a beauty icon but also their beautiful friendship.

The only public photograph of Diana from that year shows her wearing her lush, thick blonde hair in a soft lob with full, slightly tousled bangs. The snap was taken at her older sister Jane’s wedding, during which she was a bridesmaid; for the occasion, she styled her shoulder-length locks in a half-up, half-down ’do decorated with a flower. It was Diana’s then-long bob that became Dalton’s starting canvas.

Richard Dalton was Princess Diana's personal hairdresser for more than a decade. He revealed his favorite moments with her and what it was like to style, know, and love the People's Princess.

Dalton had worked with the princess for a couple years out of his salon before she asked him to become her personal hairdresser in 1981. From then, Dalton saw her every day—”sometimes twice a day, depending on the tiara,” he joked during the “Styling Princess Diana” panel hosted by People for their 50th anniversary earlier this year—for more than a decade. 

When asked just how one gets invited to be a part of Di’s personal glam team, he cheekily responded, “I don’t know.” While it may be beyond him how it happened, one thing is clear: Diana never had to worry about looking anything short of fabulous. “I know fullness,” he said. “I know big hair.”

Of course, Diana’s personal style and her hair are inextricably linked. As her fashion moments got more daring, her 'dos followed suit, with much of the credit going to Dalton. He was responsible for everything from Diana’s wispy mushroom cut that marked her young teenage years to her deep side-parted, pinned-back locks that telegraphed her as the Sloane Ranger poster child. And then, of course, there was her Farrah Fawcett-inspired feathered shag that gave ‘80s volume a regal touch.

When asked the ever-tricky question, what is your favorite Diana hair moment? Dalton recalls one quickly and confidently: A look she wore in Bangkok, Thailand, in February 1988. 

Whenever Diana traveled, she honored the place she was visiting with her look, and Dalton thought using Thailand’s national flower, the orchid, would be the perfect homage. The look marked a special instance of creativity—as it was the first time they used florals—and gave way to a funny memory.

Richard Dalton was Princess Diana's personal hairdresser for more than a decade. He revealed his favorite moments with her and what it was like to style, know, and love the People's Princess.

Diana was on board with the idea, except for one thing: “She said, ‘Where are you going to get orchids?’” Dalton remembered. “I said, ‘I’ll find some.’ So I ran around the Imperial Hotel and pinched them off the flower arrangements. Somebody said, ‘Where did you get those?’ I said, ‘I’m stealing flowers for the princess.’”

He was also the brains behind Diana’s statement-making appearance at a gala in Melbourne, Australia, in 1985, when she wore an emerald-and-diamond choker as a headband with a one-shoulder teal gown created by Diana’s wedding dress designer Elizabeth Emanuel. Dalton’s innovation of turning a necklace into a headpiece once again produced a laughable moment.

"I think she had sunburn on her neck, so we said, ‘Let’s make a headband of it,’” he said. “I asked Evelyn, who was her dresser, for about six inches of knicker elastic. She said, ‘What’s knicker elastic?’ I said, ‘Well, it’s like a quarter of an inch thick, and it keeps your granny’s knickers up.”

Richard Dalton was Princess Diana's personal hairdresser for more than a decade. He revealed his favorite moments with her and what it was like to style, know, and love the People's Princess.

Whether they wanted it to or not, Diana’s tresses always made headlines—which meant it sometimes took center stage over the princess’s charity engagements. So, when Di approached Dalton about wanting to do a big chop, he knew they’d have to be strategic. 

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Instead of a drastic change, Dalton did things slow and steady; every other day, he gave her hair a little quarter-inch snip. “By the time eight weeks passed, her hair was short. Nobody noticed,” he shared, prompting a laugh from the audience.

Dalton and Diana’s daily appointments and arms-length proximity—he remembered each time they boarded a yacht, he got a cabin closer and closer to hers, so he was “always shouting distance”—naturally stretched their relationship past beautification. “It was always fun,” he said fondly.

Dalton was a full-time hairdresser, part-time dance partner liaison—such as the time he approached Roman Holiday star Gregory Peck at a gala about cutting the rug with Diana on her behalf—and part-time Dynasty recapper. 

He joked it was his job to “relay every detail” the princess missed from the soap opera. “She said to me, ‘Richard, you can't go out tonight.’ I said, ‘Why?’ She said, ‘Dynasty's on.’ Okay, so? And she said, ‘I want to know all about it in the morning because I've got to go to a boring reception.’”

Richard Dalton was Princess Diana's personal hairdresser for more than a decade. He revealed his favorite moments with her and what it was like to style, know, and love the People's Princess.

Dalton’s relationship with Diana had a generational impact, too, as he gave Prince William and Prince Harry their first haircuts, as well as subsequent trims up until 1991 when he moved to New York. He remembers the boys loved to be in the barber’s chair, as it meant they got “extra television time.” He recalled William would often pull out a chair in preparation when he saw Dalton arriving. “They were both very sweet,” Dalton said.

Even after Dalton moved and traveled between the Big Apple and Los Angeles as Creative Director of Clairol and hairdresser to Miss America Caroline Sapp, he and the princess kept up with one another. “She always used to ask every time she'd pass my house, ‘Have you heard from Richard? What's Richard doing?’”

Despite the royal title, world engagements, and waltzes with movie stars, Dalton says Diana “was just a regular girl”—though with amazing hair, might we add. He shared, “She always wanted to be a normal person…when I met her, anyway, she was 17 and just sort of, a bit awkward sometimes.”

In all those years, watching Diana develop from an innocent teacher’s assistant to a beloved princess, Dalton became her confidant. “There's an unwritten law in the hairdressing profession: you don't kiss and tell, especially tell things [about] your clients that you're very close to,” he said. “Yes, I knew a lot of secrets. Still do.”

Richard Dalton was Princess Diana's personal hairdresser for more than a decade. He revealed his favorite moments with her and what it was like to style, know, and love the People's Princess.

Now, 27 years after her death, Dalton is offering even more insight in his forthcoming book, It’s All About the Hair—My Decade With Diana, in collaboration with Renae Plant, director and curator of The Princess Diana Museum. The project will feature never-been-told stories that will correspond to clothing, jewelry, and other pieces in the virtual museum.

Plant told InStyle, “She had this gift that when you met her, you felt connected with her; she had this presence…it was uniting.” In her memory, Plant has made it her life’s work to unite Diana’s belongings and all the people she touched—both sartorially and sentimentally—including Emanuel and Dalton.

“If we don't preserve their wisdom and their knowledge while they are here, we will lose that forever,” she said.

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