The Art of Spectacle in the Everyday Mundane

By Kristina Ilse Vetter

Photography by Lindy Moody

“He made it integral to life at court, a symbol and requirement of aristocratic identity so deeply

ingrained and internalized that the art of ballet would be forever linked to his {Louis XIV} reign. It was at Louis’s court that the practices of royal spectacle and aristocratic social dance were distilled and


— Jennifer Homans “‘Apollo’s Angels A History of Ballet”

AS I sat down at my computer, Zoom at the ready, I realized how little I know

about fashion. Sure, I understand the basic concept and may dare to say that I have a

decent sense of style. However, a sense does not grant knowledge. It allots only a

glimpse and maybe a participation trophy for your trouble. On the other side of the

screen was Mr. Troy Dylan Allen. Hair a ballet slipper pink and coiffed out of his way.

Nails painted in a shiny turquoise coming in and out of camera view as he spoke. He

wore three layered, gold necklaces of varying textures, and a darker top that I will not

attempt to label in any technical textile or pattern terms. I could try, but why risk the

embarrassment. I was in a “Twin Peaks” themed tee and sage green cotton overalls.

The difference was obvious.

Troy is a born and raised native to Savannah, GA. To anyone who lives here that

means a great deal. To live here does not necessarily mean you are rooted here. It has

to be earned and judged by the oaks that adorn the city and crack its sidewalks. To root

here means to have been here. Troy attended Garrison School for the Arts, Savannah

Arts Academy, then SCAD (Savannah College of Art and Design). He was described as

a breakout talent as a junior at Savannah Arts Academy during Savannah Fashion

week in 2014, had a gap year in New York City, and has seemed to follow his intuition

as any young artist does. However, when asked about how his collections morphed as

time went on and schools changed, we find out something interesting. Troy Dylan Allen

did not focus in fashion design from the get-go. He was a dancer first and foremost.

Ballet, it seems, was a first love.

Anyone familiar with the ballet world knows that it’s a difficult standard to uphold.

At the heart of it is a call to perfection, to be more than before. Anything short of that

standard is not a dramatic failure, but it is always a means, and demand of oneself, to

improve. You must move forward intentionally. Otherwise, why bother. I can see Troy

mapping out his day as he is talking to me, planning behind his eyes. He has things to

do and sew.

If you follow Troy on Instagram, you’ll notice a few things right away: pastel

colors, glittering sequins, and enough tulle to make a thousand tutus at least. His posts

are captioned in unapologetic statements of joy and pride. Each photo brings you

snippets of a party in the making or happening. Sequined panties, enormous tulle

bodices and skirts in single and multiple colors, opulent smiles and you are absolutely

invited to join. The guest list is open, but make sure to bring something bubbly to sip.

Dancing is a must. In Louis XIV’s time, the nobles isolated their spectacles in their

palaces. Now, we create and control them. In the end, you see, the noble’s couldn’t

keep up with ballet’s evolution.

Now, let’s be clear. Savannah is not specifically known for fashion. But, as Troy

puts it, it is a place to test boundaries. Meaning he and his business partner, Cali

Artigues, venture out in their best, brightest, and daring. Surprising to some, Savannah

continues to accommodate as they go out and about for a fun day/night for a drink and

a well-deserved break. A break after all-nighters sewing garments and masks for all of

us to enjoy. A break because they work hard and often at what they do. Every artist

understands this as a rhythm. The repeated motions of practicing a craft until it

becomes natural and fine-tuned. What is often seen as a single finished product is not

immediately understood as up to one hundred hours of work. Dancers know this

through hours of classes well into their professional levels. Constantly keeping up with

their body’s optimal performance and pushing it ever further. Troy and Cali know this as

a small team with a big task and a lot of stitches. This is “the everyday.” It’s not the

glamour of a runway or the exclusive after-party. The glitz of fashion is distilled into the

tiniest of moments. The rest is work that requires nimble hands and a focused mind.

The beauty of each garment is the reveal of the dedication in its designer. Troy puts this

succinctly as “fashion isn’t what you think it is.”

People misunderstand the word spectacle, much like they might misunderstand a

man in a tulle dress. Harper Watters of the Houston Ballet outfitted in one of Troy and

Cali’s creations, for example. However, spectacle simply means “a striking display or

performance.” Mundane being something we refer to as “boring, dull,” but also

necessary and associated with a collective hatred of the work week. The mundane we

misrepresent and romanticise in how we spend our time in it. The grind, as it is. A

representation of our worth. We don’t try to relish, or dare to revel in it. Instead, we

smash through it. Bullishly narrow in our effort to reach the weekend because this is

when we can be set free. This is the agreed upon social contract in our Western ideal of

productivity. Work hard, play hard—in your pre-approved time slots.

What is being invited by this team of designers like Troy Dylan Allen and Cali

Artigues is a display of a simple, everyday spectacle that brings you a moment of

happiness. A party just for you in the middle of your week. This act invites the question

of what the connotations of spectacle and mundane are in your life, as it lives for you

individually. Your person and expression is not the negative spectacle, nor the boring

mundane. It is simply you. You being the culmination of your interests, experiences, and

introspections. Negative connotations, associated with identity and expression, limit us

in our society and the language fails us as a result. No matter where you may fall, or

identify as, on any given spectrum of this human experience, there is something to be

celebrated. Because at the end of the day, shouldn’t it matter that you’re enjoying

yourself no matter where, or when, you may be in your day, week, month, year, or life?

It matters because you do. What a lovely reminder to put on something nice. Louis XIV

would have insisted. Troy and Cali demand it.

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