For Richard Dalton, who spent a lot of time with Princess Diana as a personal hairdresser, the dazzling spotlight on the new “Windsor brides” – Catherine and Meghan – brings back a deluge of memories.
“I met Diana at the age of 17,” he told me from his home in Southern California. “I worked in the Fenwick store of Bond Street store and cut her sisters’ hair.” Dalton is not responsible for the puff and feathered cut, now emblematic of the bride. It was his stylist colleague Kevin Shanley, to whom Dalton passed the shy teenager. Shanley also styled Diana for her wedding.
But a dusting on a style for the official opening of the Parliament put the royal locks in the competent hands of Dalton. “I was with her every day for 12 years,” he says. He also gave young princes William and Harry their first haircuts.
Dalton remains positively like a sphinx when it comes to sharing something really personal about the late princess, even though he moved permanently to the United States six years before his death. It is a trust he holds out of respect not only for his memory, but for his sons. But when it comes to general questions of royal style, he allows himself to be more open.
Apparently, the princess wanted much shorter and easier hair for a future trip to Africa, but worried about the impact that a radical change could have. Their solution was to cut it in imperceptible increments. “Everything I did to her hair became the front page,” he said. “We had to be very careful. We had to do it a quarter inch at a time over several weeks. “
Watching Prince Harry’s wedding to Meghan Markle brought back a flood of memories, as well as unique ideas. “Her hair was very elegant,” he said of the bride. “He not only completed the dress, but also balanced the tiara and the veil.”
“What people don’t realize,” he continued, “is the breadth of this monarch-length veil and the meaning of the tiara. It is a crown jewel and must be respected “and protected. You have to be extremely careful and gentle with it, and absolutely no hairspray or styling product can touch the stones.”
Most poignant were the many subtle nods to Diana that Dalton noticed. “From the vacant chair next to Prince William to Diana’s favorite hymn,” Guide me, O your great redeemer, “which was sung both at her marriage to Prince Charles and at her funeral, she was there in many ways. And then there were the flowers – white roses and lily of the valley. These are his favorites. “(Editor’s note: the chair next to Prince William remained empty as it was in front of the Queen’s seat.)
Diana’s life has evolved, that of Dalton too. A native of Scotland, he came to London in his youth after winning a scholarship to the Vidal Sassoon Academy. After his studies, he worked for several high-level salons while being part of the creative team of Glemby International, developing a reputation as an impeccable master of perfectly elegant hairstyle for photo shoots and fashion shows during the training years of London Fashion Week.
In 1981, he became Princess Diana’s personal hairdresser, while simultaneously owning and operating his own salon at Claridge’s Hotel. When asked to join the princess full time, including all international missions, he sold the salon and joined him.
For more than a decade, Dalton has created looks for the princess that are now considered iconic – the jewelry choker as a headband in Australia, the controversial 1940s retro roll, and ultimately the big hair needed to counterbalance the fashion padded on the shoulders of the 80s, slyly called “the Dynasty Di years”.
I met Dalton while he was commuting between London and New York, after being appointed creative director of hair care giant Clairol. His Dove Mews apartment, on a cobblestone dead end between South Kensington and Chelsea, remains one of the most charming places I have ever seen. Our friendship has grown personally and professionally. Dalton not only did the hair for all of my seventh-to-sixth fashion shows, but it was also put into service for my youngest sister’s wedding. The marriage did not last, but everyone’s hair was amazing.
Ultimately, the climate and lifestyle of southern California signaled and Dalton moved to the left coast. There he continues to work with ladies in the spotlight. Past and present clients include Sophia Loren, Jane Seymour, Barbara Grant and the late Joan Rivers (with daughter Melissa). He even did Katy Perry, “before she was known as Katy Perry,” he laughs.
But the crowning achievement of his career will always be his years alongside the extraordinary woman who, if fate had not intervened cruelly, could have legitimately worn not only any old crown, but the Crowned.
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