‘Wear and Tear’

Costume Designer Tracy Tynan Examines Threads of Her Life

Tracy Tynan’s vivid and enthralling memoir follows her progress from childhood as the daughter of legendary theater critic Kenneth Tynan and author Elaine Dundy to a career as a costume designer for some of the best independent films of the 1980s and a long and mostly happy marriage to acclaimed director Jim McBride. As befits a woman whose preoccupation with fashion started early and eventually became her stock in trade, each chapter is titled after a specific article of clothing, from bikinis and white denim jeans to pinafores and even brown Wellington boots. Despite, or perhaps because of, this seemingly superficial conceit, Wear and Tear delivers a remarkably dynamic account of what was by any standard an extraordinary life. The Tynans were a spectacularly difficult couple, prone to shouting matches and the hurling of ashtrays, lamps, and whatever else came to hand. Young Tracy Tynan finds solace early on by snuggling in the nap of one of her mother’s furs. Later, after meeting husband McBride and working on his reboot of the classic film Breathless, she discovers her true vocation dressing actors for Hollywood films. The action is nonstop, and so are the insights, as Tynan evolves an idiosyncratic yet ultimately sympathetic way of looking at her rarefied world through the lens of attire.

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