Piled high on the white bed in Lyn Revson’s two-bedroom Park Avenue apartment last summer were dozens of Hermès handbags—stunning remnants of another life, another time. Revson, a vivacious beauty with long honey brown hair and striking green eyes, died in June at the age of 80, and though her death didn’t rank so much as an obituary in The New York Times, in the sixties and seventies she was a fixture on best-dressed lists and society pages; she even published her own manual, Lyn Revson’s World of Style. For a decade, she was married to Charles Revson, the charismatic and mercurial president of Revlon. The couple lived in a 28-room triplex in Manhattan that had once belonged to Revson’s competitor Helena Rubinstein, and they vacationed on their yacht, the Ultima II, which was the length of a city block.
Charles was very particular about home decor. He insisted, for instance, that the huge brown-and-white marble tub in his mansion fill up with hot water in two and a half minutes flat, and he had furniture designed with pull-out ashtrays. He was just as controlling of his wife’s appearance: Despite Lyn’s lovely bosom, Charles demanded that she wear only high-neck clothing, along with Norman Norell’s streamlined dresses, narrow pants designed by his tailor William Fioravanti, and extravagant Bulgari jewels, which, early in their marriage, he repossessed at the end of each evening.
Lyn usually carried an Hermès bag, and although her life post-Revson (the couple divorced in 1974) was both less grand and more private, the bags told a different story. The ladylike dark green crocodile purse was once worn to a gala at the Met; the 10 different Constance bags in sensible working-woman colors were waiting for a lunch at Swifty’s; and the large toile Haut à Courroies weekender still had its tags from the Concorde. Her Hermès collection—along with the hundreds of classic Hélène Arpels size 6½ shoes—was an impressive but melancholy sight. The world they conjured up had all but disappeared.
From her teenage years on, Lyn Fisher Sheresky Revson had a particular sense of style. “If my mother loved something, she really loved it,” Susan Walker, 55, the youngest of Lyn’s children and the only girl, told me as she sorted through her mother’s many boxes of China blue Smythson stationery, all of it personalized with only her first name scripted in white. “She always had taste.” Walker pointed to the delicate gold ring on her finger: “My mother picked this ring out when she was 17,” she said. “It’s Buccellati. What 17-year-old has such elegant taste? It was her ring from her marriage to my father.”