Princess Diana’s Style Remembered

Princess Diana, photographed in 1997 by Mario Testino for Vanity Fair, just two months before her death. Photo courtesy of @princessdianaphotos

Twenty years ago, the world lost Princess Diana, who was renowned for her compassion, her grace and, of course, her sense of style. Here, we round up some of our favorite hairstyles and shed some light on the hairdressers who created them.

Photo courtesy of @princessdianaphotos

Throughout her life in the spotlight, Diana had three hairstylists: Kevin Shanley, Richard Dalton and Sam McKnight. Shanley and Dalton were working together at a salon in London when Diana first came on the advice of her older sister Sarah (who also introduced her to Prince Charles). Dalton asked Shanley to work with Diana, who he continued to snip and style her hair for six years—he even styled it for the epic 1981 wedding, which was watched by about 750 million people. It was Shanley who gave Diana the feathered style, which became so hugely popular that magazines printed cutting diagrams for readers to bring to their hairdressers.


Enjoying this story? Subscribe to the American Salon Newsletter

Get inspirational trends, techniques, tips, education and the latest beauty news delivered right to your inbox! To read on the go, sign up today to get weekly beauty news and updates.


Photo courtesy of @princessdianaphotos

Accounts vary as to why Diana switched stylists and went with Dalton, but nevertheless he became her full-time stylist in 1984. It didn’t take Dalton long to realize the importance of not changing the royal’s hair too quickly. In 1984, a furor was caused when Diana showed up to the formal opening of Parliament sporting an “old-fashioned chignon…with a diamond tiara perched on top,” as described by a People article at the time. “The next morning the five London tabloids delivered their verdict. The hairdo was dumpy, stiff, severe and tacked decades onto her 23 years—a definite ‘hair-don’t,’” the magazine wrote. And a mere two days later, the tabloids panned Di’s ’40s-inspired hairstyle—with the sides swept up and held in place by tortoiseshell combs, shown above. “Hair We Go Again” read The Sun’s headline. Dalton said he and the Princess learned their lesson—when she wanted to go shorter, he would only cut her hair ¼ inch every other day over the course of several months. Bear in mind that the longest her hair ever grew was 12 inches—talk about intense scrutiny.


Photo courtesy of @princessdianaphotos

During a special exhibition aboard the Queen Mary in Long Beach in 2013, Dalton recalled one of his favorite hairstyles: the orchid-pinned updo Diana wore during a 1988 trip to Thailand. He reminisced that he found a pitcher of orchids in their hotel, dumped out the water and impulsively stuck the flowers in at the nape.

Photo courtesy of @moira.carnie

Once Dalton moved to sunny SoCal in 1991, Sam McKnight became Princess Diana’s mane maven following a haircut he gave her that landed on the cover of British Vogue. In a recent interview with The Telegraph, McKnight recalls, “She said, 'What would you do if I gave you free rein?' I said, 'Cut it short', and she said, ‘Could you do it now?'"

Photo courtesy of @princessdianaphotos

McKnight was also responsible for her famous ’90s slicked-back look. As he says in his book, published last year, “I loved Diana looking more spontaneous… During one particular portrait we worked on, Lord Snowdon had the inspired idea to photograph her with wet hair. I first tired slicking her hair back in a private shoot and she looked incredibly chic. Even though she was a bit nervous, she was still open to new ideas regarding her look. So for the Council of Fashion Designers Awards in New York, we decided she would try it out in public—the following day the front pages spoke volumes.”