Civilizational dissent at late 1990’s: body, fashion and club cultures in contemporary society


  • Paula Guerra University of Porto - Faculty of Arts and Humanities IASPM - Individual Member (i.e. without affiliation to a specific branch)
  • Henrique Grimaldi Figueredo University of Campinas


fashion, body, aesthetics, club cultures, Alexander McQueen.


British fashion of the 1990s manifests a fin-de-siècle social anxiety. Facing a systemic crisis of culture, some designers embodied the sociological concepts of risk and carnivalization in their creations. This attitude is reflected in the emergence of themes such as the wasted look and abject aesthetics, epistemological solutions arising from a legacy of grunge experiences. Based on a documental approach, materialized in media and art works, to some British fashion shows of the 1990s, we will discuss in this article several aspects of the relationships between body, risk, carnival and fashion, focusing on the works of British designers and its manifestation in the hidden economies (club cultures scenes included), in which Alexander McQueen played a central role.

Author Biographies

Paula Guerra, University of Porto - Faculty of Arts and Humanities IASPM - Individual Member (i.e. without affiliation to a specific branch)

University of Porto, Faculty of Arts and Humanities, Institute of Sociology of University of Porto, Porto, Portugal Paula Guerra is a Professor of Sociology in the Faculty of Arts and Humanities at the University of Porto (FLUP) and a Senior Researcher in the Institute of Sociology (IS-UP). She is also Invited Researcher at the Centre for Geography Studies and Territory Planning (CEGOT) and CITCEM – Transdisciplinary Research Centre “Culture, Space and Memory” at the University of Porto (UP), and Adjunct Professor at the Griffith Centre for Social and Cultural Research (GCSCR). Professor Guerra is currently the Head Researcher of ‘Keep It Simple, Make It Fast! Prolegomena and Punk Scenes – a Road to Portuguese Contemporaneity (1977–2012)’, an international and interdisciplinary project about the Portuguese (and global) punk and underground scenes. She is also the founder and the co-coordinator of the KISMIF Conference (

Henrique Grimaldi Figueredo, University of Campinas

Henrique Grimaldi Figueredo is a PhD candidate in Sociology at the University of Campinas (UNICAMP, Brazil), with a research internship at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales (EHESS, France). Fapesp fellow (2019/10315-5 and BEPE 2020/02298-0), he is executive editor of the journal Todas as Artes, based at the Institute of Sociology at the University of Porto (UPorto, Portugal).


Adorno, T. & Horkheimer, M. 2002. Cultural memory in the present. Stanford: Stanford University Press.

Ariès, P. 1974. Western attitudes toward death from the Middle Ages to the Present. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.

Arnold, G. 1993. On the road to Nirvana. London: Pan Books.

Arnold, R. 1999. Heroin Chic. Fashion Theory, 3 issue (3): 279-195.

Bakhtin, M. 1968. Rabelais and his world. Cambridge: MIT Press.

Beck, U. 1992. Risk Society: Towards a New Modernity. Londres: Sage.

Bennett, A. & Guerra, P (eds). 2019. Underground music scenes and DIY cultures. Oxford: Routledge.

Callahan, M. 2014. Champagne Supernovas: Kate Moss, Marc Jacobs, Alexander McQueen, and the '90s renegades who remade fashion. New York: Touchstone.

Crane, D. The production of culture – media and the urban arts. Londres: SAGE, 1992.

Duggan, G. 2001. The Greatest Show on Earth: A look at contemporary fashion shows and their relationship to performance art. Fashion Theory, 5 (3): 243-270.

Evans, C. 2012. Fashion at the Edge: spectacle, modernity & deathliness. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Evans, C. 2015. Modelling McQueen: hard grace. In Wilcox, C (Org.). Alexander McQueen. New York: Abrams: 189-203.

Figueredo, H. G. & Nogueira, L. 2016. Moda e transcendência: a performance na passarela de Alexander McQueen [Fashion and Transcendence: performances at Alexander McQueen’s catwalk]. CES REVISTA, 30 (1): 81-100.

Figueredo, H. G. 2018. Entre padrões de estetização e tipologias econômicas: a economia estética na moda contemporânea a partir da passarela de Alexander McQueen (1992-2010) [Between aestheticization patterns and economic typologies: aesthetic economics in contemporary fashion from the Alexander McQueen catwalk (1992-2010)]. Master Thesis. Universidade Federal de Juiz de Fora, Brazil.

Figueredo, H. G. 2019. The Soho scene and the aesthetic transformations in British fashion in early 90s. In Guerra, P.; Alberto, T. P. Keep it simple, make it fast! An approach to underground music scenes (Vol. 4). Porto: Universidade do Porto: 435-448.

Foucault, M. 1972. The archaeology of knowledge. New York: Pantheon Books.

Giddens, A. 1991. Modernity and self-identity. Stanford: Stanford University Press.

Gelder, K.; Thornton, S. 1997. The Subculture Reader. London: Routledge.

Guerra, P. 2010. A instável leveza do rock: génese, dinâmica e consolidação do rock alternativo em Portugal (1980-2010) [The unstable lightness of rock: genesis, dynamics and consolidation of alternative rock in Portugal (1980-2010)]. PhD. Faculdade de Letras da Universidade do Porto, Portugal.

Guerra, P. 2014. Punk, expectations, breaches and metamorphoses: Portugal, 1977–2012. Critical Arts, 28(1): 111-122.

Guerra, P. 2015a. Between psychadelia and artistic transgression: vanguards, proto-punk and musical experimentation. In Guerra, P. (Ed.). On the road to the American underground. Porto: University of Porto – Faculty of Arts and Humanities: 13-30.

Guerra, P. 2015b. Flying away: electronic dance music, dance culture, psytrance, and new sounds in Portugal. In Simão, E.; da Silva, A. M.; & Magalhães S. T. (Eds.). Exploring psychedelic trance and electronic dance music in modern culture. Hershey: IGI Global: 1-39.

Guerra, P. 2016. Keep it rocking: the social space of Portuguese alternative rock (1980–2010). Journal of Sociology, 52(4): 615-630.

Guerra, P. 2019. Angels with dirty faces: punk, moda e iconoclastias contemporâneas [Angels with dirty faces: punk, fashion and contemporary iconoclasts]. dObra[s]. Associação Brasileira de Estudos e Pesquisas em Moda (Abepem). 12 (26): 124-149.

Guerra, P. & Bennett, A. 2015. Never Mind the Pistols? The Legacy and Authenticity of the Sex Pistols in Portugal. Popular Music and Society, 38(4): 500-521.

Guerra, P. & Figueredo, H. G. 2020. Prosopografias clubbers em São Paulo e Londres: Moda, estilo, estética e cenas musicais contemporâneas [Prosopographies clubbers in São Paulo and London: Fashion, style, aesthetics and contemporary music scenes]. Revista Tomo, 37(1): 215-252.

Kent, N. 2006. The dark stuff. L’envers du rock. Paris: Naïve.

Knox, K. 2010. Alexander McQueen: Genius of a generation. London: A&C Black.

Kristeva, J. 1982. Powers of horror: An essay on abjection. New York: Columbia University Press.

Langman, L. 2005. Globalization and the grotesque. In Robinson, W. & Applebaum, R. (Eds.). Critical globalization studies. New York: Routledge: 289-331.

Langman, L. 2008. Punk, porn and resistance: Carnivalization and the body in popular culture. Current Sociology, 56(4): 657–677.

Marcuse, H. 1991. One-dimensional Man: studies in ideology of advanced industrial society. London: Routledge.

Martins, M. 1956. Estudos de literatura medieval. Braga: Livraria Cruz.

Monneyron, F. 2014. La frivolité essentielle. Paris: Presses Universitaires de France.

McRobbie, A. 1998. British fashion design: Rag trade or image industry? London: Routledge.

Pink, S. 2006. Doing visual ethnography. New York: SAGE.

Reynolds, S. 2007. Bring the noise: 20 years of writing about hip rock and hip hop. Londres: Faber and Faber Limited.

Sennett, R. 2000. Corrosion of character: The personal consequences of work in the new capitalism. New York: W. W. Norton.

Strong, C. 2011. Grunge: Music and memory. Farnham: Ashgate.

Thomas, D. 2015a. Gods and Kings: The rise and fall of Alexander McQueen and John Galliano. New York: Penguin Books.

Thomas, D. 2015b. Galliano and McQueen: clubland culture. Evening Standard. Accessed: 7 May 2020.

Thornton, S. The Social Logic of Subcultural Capital, 1995 [1997]. In Gelder, K.; Thornton, S. The Subculture Reader. London: Routledge: 200-213.

Thornton, S. 1996. Club cultures: music, media and subcultural capital. Hannover: Wesleyan University Press.

Towsend. E. 2015. Memento-Mori. In Wilcox, C (Org.). Alexander McQueen. New York: Abrams: 159-165.

Wallestein, K. 1998. Thinness and Other Refusals in Contemporary Fashion Advertisements. Fashion Theory, 2(2): 129-159.

Watt, J. 2012. Alexander McQueen, the life and the legacy. New York: Harper Design.

Westwood, V. & Kelly, I. 2016. Vivienne Westwood. London: Picador.

Whitley, Z. Wasteland/Wonderland. 2015. In Wilcox, C. (org). Alexander McQueen. New York: Abrams: 171-179.

Wilson, A. 2015. Alexander McQueen: Blood Beneath the Skin. London: Simon & Schuster.

Wouters, C. 2007. Informalization: Manners and Emotions since 1890. London/Thousand Oaks: Sage.

Wouters, C. 2004. Sex and Manners: Female Emancipation in the West 1890-2000. London/Thousand Oaks: Sage.






Articles – Open Section