In December 1992, after years of living very separate lives in private, Princess Diana and Prince Charles finally announced their separation to the world. From this moment, something shifted in Diana. The conservative dresses from her formal duties were replaced with professional trouser suits, while shoulder bags that hung from delicate gold chains were swapped for masculine briefcases and leather tote bags. In a business wardrobe of pinstripe power suits, pastel Versace skirt suits, and flawlessly tailored shift dresses, she became the Chief Executive Princess.
Diana’s first order of business was the re-jujuing of Kensington Palace after Charles moved out. “Her first decision was to throw out the mahogany double bed she had slept in at Kensington Palace since her wedding eleven years before. Then she had the bedroom painted and new locks fitted, and changed her private telephone number. Her new life alone had begun,” Andrew Morton later wrote. Then she went ahead and did what many of us wish we could do with our ex’s belongings: she ordered them to be burned in a bonfire at Highgrove. Many collective gifts from the estranged couple’s married years were reduced to a pile of ashes.
Sam McKnight, who was introduced to the Princess on a shoot with the photographer Patrick Demarchelier, was responsible for her modern new hairdo. “She wanted independence, and to appear strong—the hair cutting was part of this. I think in some way, she didn’t want to hide behind her hair or her heavy fringe anymore,” he said. It was Coco Chanel who once famously declared, “A woman who cuts her hair is about to change her life,” and indeed, by Diana’s saying goodbye to her trademark feathered cut, she welcomed in a new, serious era. Sam McKnight was her hairdresser for seven years and said the only time they argued “was when she would get a sneaky perm done” while he was away. “She thought it was easier to manage,” he said.