Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research


profile image for Professor Julia Twigg

Professor Julia Twigg

Professor of Social Policy and Sociology

School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research

Room CNE 214
School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research
Cornwallis North East
Canterbury , Kent, CT2 7NF


I am at the University of Kent’s School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research, Canterbury campus. See the rest of the Social Policy and Sociology teams.

My work focuses on embodiment.  In The Body in Health and Social Care, Palgrave 2006, I reflected on the relevance of new theorising in relation to the body for a series of policy relevant areas. These included: age and ageing, disability, medicine and health care, diet and health, social care, public and private space.

The main focus of my current work is clothing and age. I have a series of interconnected projects that explore the role of clothing and dress in the changing constitution of age. These are described in greater detail below and the Clothing and Age website.

I have also been particularly interested in analysing carework as a form of bodywork. I am co-editor with others of a special issue of Sociology of Health and Illness on bodywork.


I joined the teaching department at Kent in 1996. Previously I had been in the Social Policy department of the University of Hull. My earlier social policy career was in two research units: Social Policy Research Unit (SPRU) at the University of York, and Personal Social Services Research Unit (PSSRU) at University of Kent. Originally I trained as a sociologist at LSE where I did my Masters and PhD on vegetarianism.


I completed my PhD in Sociology and MSc (Econ) Sociology with conversion year at the London School of Economics and my BA Hons in History at the University of Durham.

Find me:

Visit my project website: Clothing and Age project.


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Also view these in the Kent Academic Repository

    Twigg, Julia (2013) Fashion and Age: Dress, the Body and Later Life. Bloomsbury Publishing PLC ISBN 9781847886958.


    Throughout history certain forms and styles of dress have been deemed appropriate - or more significantly, inappropriate - for people as they age. Older women in particular have long been subject to social pressure to tone down, to adopt self-effacing, covered-up styles. But increasingly there are signs of change, as older women aspire to younger, more mainstream, styles, and retailers realize the potential of the 'grey market'. Fashion and Age is the first study to systematically explore the links between clothing and age, drawing on fashion theory and cultural gerontology to examine the changing ways in which age is imagined, experienced and understood in modern culture through the medium of dress. Clothes lie between the body and its social expression, and the book explores the significance of embodiment in dress and in the cultural constitution of age. Drawing on the views of older women, journalists and fashion editors, and clothing designers and retailers, it aims to widen the agenda of fashion studies to encompass the everyday dress of the majority, shifting the debate about age away from its current preoccupation with dependency, towards a fuller account of the lived experience of age. Fashion and Age will be of great interest to students of fashion, material culture, sociology, sociology of age, history of dress and to clothing designers.

    Twigg, Julia (2006) The Body in Health and Social Care. Palgrave Macmillan, 240 pp. ISBN 978-0333776209.


    Focusing on health and social care, this book shows how important the body can be to a range of issues such as disability, old age, sexuality, consumption, food and public space. Twigg illustrates how constructions of the body affect how we see different social groups and explores the significance of it in the provision and delivery of care.

    Twigg, Julia (2000) Bathing - the Body and Community Care. Taylor and Francis, London, 240 pp. ISBN 9780415204217.


    This book examines the work of a major employment group within the health and welfare field. It relates to debates on the body and issues associated with disability, personal space and autonomy and the power of dynamics of care. Community care lies at the intersection of day-to-day life and the public world of service provision. Using the lens of one particular activity - bathing - this book explores what happens when the public world of professionals and service provision enters the lives of older and disabled people. In doing so it addresses wider issues concerning the management of the body, the meaning of carework and the significance of body care in the ordering of daily life. Bathing - the Body and Community Care provides an engaging text for students and will be of interest to a wide range of audiences, both social science and health science students and nursing and allied professionals.

    Twigg, Julia and Atkin, Karl (1994) Carers Perceived: Policy and Practice in Informal Care. Open University Press, 192 pp. ISBN 9780335191116.


    Explores the reality of how service providers like doctors, social workers and community nurses respond to carers. This book presents a study of the relationship between carers and service providers. Carers are the bedrock of community care, and yet our understanding of how they do and do not fit into the care system is limited. Concern is often expressed about the need to support carers, but the best way to do this is not always clear. This book breaks new ground in exploring the reality of how service providers the doctors, social workers, and community nurses respond to carers. It looks at which carers get help and why, analyzing how age, relationship, class and gender structure the responses of service providers and carers. It examines the moral and policy issues posed by trying to incorporate carers' interests into service provision. What would services look like if they took the needs of carers seriously? How far can they afford to do so? Is this only achieved at the expense of disabled people? What is the proper relationship between carers and services? Carers pose in acute form many of the central dilemmas of social welfare, and the account presented here has the widest significance for the analysis of community care. Focusing on the views of carers as well as service providers, the book looks at caring across a variety of relationships and conditions, including people with mental health problems and learning disabilities.


    Twigg, Julia and Buse, Christina E. (2013) Dress, dementia and the embodiment of identity. Dementia, 12 (3). pp. 326-336. ISSN 1471-3012.


    The article explores the significance of dress in the embodied experience of dementia, exploring questions of identity, memory and relationship. It suggests that clothing and dress are important in the analysis of the day-to-day experiences of people with dementia, giving access to dimensions of selfhood often ignored in over-cognitive accounts of being. As a result clothing and dress can be significant to the provision of person-centred dementia care. These arguments are explored through ideas of embodied identity, the materialisation of memories, and the maintenance, or otherwise, of appearance in care. The article forms part of the background to an ESRC-funded empirical study exploring the role of clothing and dress in the everyday lives of people with dementia, living at home or in care homes, and of their relatives.

    Twigg, Julia (2012) Adjusting the cut: fashion, the body and age in the UK high street. Ageing and Society, 32 (06). pp. 1030-1054. ISSN 0144-686X.


    The article explores the interplay between bodily and cultural ageing in the provision of clothing for older women, examining how design directors of UK clothing retailers act as cultural mediators, shaping the ways in which later years are imagined, experienced and performed at an embodied level. Based on interviews with clothing retailers with a significant involvement with the older market: Marks & Spencer, George at Asda, Jaeger, Viyella and Edinburgh Woollen Mill, it analyses the contexts in which they design, discussing: the potential of the grey market; the association of fashion and youthfulness; and the tensions between lifestyle and age in the formation of the market. It explores the ways in which they adjust the cut, colour and style of clothes to meet the requirements of older bodies and the changing cultural interpretations of these, addressing debates around the interplay of bodily and cultural ageing, and the role of consumption in the constitution of age. Reflecting both the cultural and material turns, it argues for the need to expand the social gerontology imaginary to encompass wider sources shaping the meanings of later years.

    Twigg, Julia and Wolkowitz, Carol and Cohen, Rachel Lara et al. (2011) Conceptualising body work in health and social care. Sociology of Health & Illness, 33 (2). pp. 171-188. ISSN 0141-9889.


    Body work is a central activity in the practice of many workers in the field of health and social care. This article provides an introduction to the concept of body work - paid work on the bodies of others - and demonstrates its importance for understanding the activities of health and social care workers. Providing an overview of existing research on body work, it shows the manifold ways in which this can inform the sociology of health and illness - whether through a micro-social focus on the inter-corporeal aspects of work in health and social care, or through elucidating our understanding of the times and spaces of work, or through highlighting the relationship between mundane body work and the increasingly global movements of bodies, workers and those worked-upon. The article shows how understanding work undertaken on the bodies of others as 'body work' provides a mechanism for relating work in the sphere of health and social care to that in other sectors, opening up new avenues for research.

    Twigg, Julia (2010) How does Vogue negotiate age?: fashion, the body and the older woman. Fashion Theory: The Journal of Dress, Body & Culture, 14 (4). pp. 471-490. ISSN 1362-704X.


    This article addresses the role played by clothing and fashion in the constitution of age, exploring the changing ways in which aging is experienced, understood, and imagined in modern culture through an analysis of the responses of UK Vogue. As a high fashion journal, Voguefocuses on youth; age and aging represent a disruption of its cultural field. How it negotiates this issue is relevant to both students of fashion and of age. Older women in Vogueonly feature sporadically, and predominantly in ways that dilute or efface their age. The current ideal is one of “Ageless Style” and cultural integration. But this has not always been the case. In the 1950s UK Vogueregularly featured a distinctly older women in the form of the fictional Mrs Exeter. No such figure appears—or could appear—today, and this article explores the reasons behind this, in the changing social and cultural location of older people in contemporary consumption culture.

    Twigg, Julia (2010) Clothing and dementia: A neglected dimension? Journal of Aging Studies, 24 (4). pp. 223-230. ISSN 0890-4065.


    The article explores the neglected subject of clothing and dementia. Addressing questions of the body, identity and selfhood, it argues – against the dominant understanding – that clothes continue to be significant in the lives and wellbeing of people with dementia. Drawing on new theorising that emphasises the embodied nature of selfhood, the article explores the role of clothing in the maintenance of identity; its nature as the ‘environment closest in’; its significance in social interaction; and its potential character as an agent of control and normativity. The article concludes that clothing and dress offer a potentially interesting field in which we can explore the nature of personhood in dementia, and in ways that offer insights into forms of response through which individuality and selfhood can be recognised, maintained and enhanced.

    Twigg, Julia (2010) Welfare embodied: The materiality of hospital dress: A commentary on Topo and Iltanen-Tähkävuori. Social Science and Medicine, 70 (11). pp. 1690-1692. ISSN 0277-9536.

    Twigg, Julia (2008) Clothing, aging and me - Routes to research. Journal of Aging Studies, 22 (2). pp. 158-162. ISSN 0890-4065.


    This essay describes the influences, academic and personal, that led the author to her current research interest in clothing and older women.

    Twigg, Julia (2004) The body in social policy: mapping a territory. Journal of Social Policy, 31 (3). pp. 421-440.

    Twigg, Julia (2004) The body, gender and age: feminist insights in social gerontology. Journal of Aging Studies, 18. pp. 59-73. ISSN 0890-4065.

    Twigg, Julia (2000) Carework as a form of bodywork. Ageing and Society, 20. pp. 389-411. ISSN 0144-686X.


    The paper argues for the importance of recognising carework as a form of bodywork. It discusses why this central dimension has been neglected in accounts of carework, pointing to the ways in which community care has traditionally been analysed, the resistance of social gerontology to an overly bodily emphasis, and the conceptual dominance of the debate on care. Drawing on a study of the provision of help with bathing and washing for older people at home, it explores the body dimension of the activity, looking at how careworkers negotiate nakedness and touch, manage dirt and disgust, balance intimacy and distance. Finally, the paper draws together some of the key themes of this bodywork: its designation as 'dirty work', its hidden, silenced character, the low occupational esteem in which it is held and its gendered nature.

    Twigg, Julia (1999) Bathing the body: Giving and receiving intimate care at home. Zeitschrift Fur Gerontologie Und Geriatrie, 32 (2). pp. 218-218. ISSN 0044-281X.

    Twigg, Julia (1999) The spatial ordering of care: public and private in bathing support at home. Sociology of Health & Illness, 21 (4). pp. 381-400. ISSN 0141-9889.


    Domiciliary care takes place in a special social space: that of the home. Focusing on the provision of bathing in the community, the article explores the spatial ordering of care at home, unpacking a series of interlocking contrasts between the public and the private, and their consequences for the power dynamics of care. These are explored in terms of the ideology of home; the spatial ordering of privacy within the home; and the treatment of the body. Carework trespasses on and re-orders these divisions. The article also explores the contrasting site of the day centre. Baths at day centres are private acts in public places, and in reversing the symbolism of home, they reveal some of the wider meanings of bathing.

    Twigg, Julia and Grand, A. (1998) Contrasting legal conceptions of family obligation and financial reciprocity in the support of older people: France and England. Ageing and Society, 18 (Part 2). pp. 131-146. ISSN 0144-686X.


    This paper explores the way family obligation and reciprocity are defined in law in France and England. Focusing on the areas of inheritance and financial support in relation to older people, it explores how these are contrasted and linked in the two societies. In France, families are legally obliged to support their kin through obligation alimentaire, but inheritance is secured by law within the family. In England by contrast there is no such legal obligation to support older relatives; nor is there any constraint on inheritance: testamentary freedom is the legal principle. The paper discusses the significance of these differences and assesses how far they are modified by the operation of the welfare state and by embedded assumptions about family relations. It sets the differences within the context of different discourses of law and social policy in the two countries.

    Twigg, Julia (1997) Deconstructing the 'social bath': Help with bathing at home for older and disabled people. Journal of Social Policy, 26. pp. 211-232. ISSN 0047-2794.


    Assistance with bathing at home for older and disabled people has long been an area of service tension and ambiguity, Lying across the principal faultline of community care, that of the medical/social divide, it is at the heart of current debates over welfare provision, But exploring the meaning of the 'social bath', as it is termed in the field, also challenges some of the traditional ways in which community care has been described and analysed particularly within the discipline of social policy, Bathing involves the negotiation of intimacy and the management of the body, and as such entails aspects of being and of social exchange that have not traditionally been part of the standard, rather rationalistic and disembodied account of social policy, Part of the aim of the paper is to redress this omission. The article explores and deconstructs the three axes within which the 'social bath' is defined, The first is the boundary between the medical and the social; and the article outlines the complex and shifting ways, both institutional and ideological, in which this boundary is constructed, The second axis concerns the social meaning of the tasks themselves; and the paper explores recent historical and sociological literature concerning the body, washing, touching and nakedness. The third axis relates to the site where these practices take place: the home, The article explores the significance of home and the power that resides in private and domestic space as opposed to the public medical space of the ward or nursing home.

    Twigg, Julia (1997) Bathing and the politics of care. Social Policy & Administration, 31 (1). pp. 61-72. ISSN 0144-5596.


    Though providing baths in the community for disabled and older people has long been an area of service dispute, it has received little academic or policy attention. This is partly because bathing and washing an assumed to be common-sense activities. This paper suggests instead that washing and bathing are far from straight forward or common-sense and that specific meanings attach to them in ways that affect how people experience the receiving of help in these areas. It explores the history of bathing and washing and the significance of touch and nakedness in service provision. It then turns to the service Providers who have traditionally undertaken such work-the community nursing and home can services-exploring the rationales that underlie such patterns and the implications of current changes in community can.

    Twigg, Julia (1995) Users, carers and care agencies-conflict or cooperation. Journal of the Royal Society of Health, 115 (4). pp. 256-257. ISSN 0264-0325.

    Twigg, Julia and Atkin, Karl (1995) Carers and Services - Factors mediating service provision. Journal of Social Policy, 24. pp. 5-30. ISSN 0047-2794.


    The article explores factors mediating the relationship between carers and service provision, exploring the judgements and expectations that lie behind the complex and sometimes seemingly inconsistent pattern of provision for carers. The article which is based on an empirical study teases out a series of factors that structure responses in this area covering: the attitude adopted by the carer to his or her caring role; the views of the cared-for person and other kin; the impact of different relationships, of what we term 'moral status', and of the existence or otherwise of a separate future for the cared-for person, as well as more social structural factors such as gender, age, class and race. The significance of these is explored through their impact on the assumptions of both service providers and carers.

Book Sections
Edited Books

    Twigg, Julia and Wolkowitz, Carol and Cohen, Rachel Lara et al. (2011) Body Work in Health and Social Care: Critical Themes, New Agendas. Sociology of Health and Illness Monographs. John Wiley and Sons Ltd ISBN 9781444349870.


    The first book to fully explore the multiple ways in which body work features in health and social care and the meanings of this work both for those employed to do it and those on whose bodies they work. The first book to fully explore the multiple ways in which body work features in health and social care and the meanings of this work both for those employed to do it and those on whose bodies they work. * Explores the commonalities between different sectors of work, including those outside health and social care * Contributions come from an international range of experts * Draws on perspectives from across the medical, therapeutic, and care fields * Incorporates a variety of methodological approaches, from life history analysis to ethnographic studies and first person accounts.


    Alaszewski, Andy and Baldock, John C. and Billings, Jenny R. et al. (2003) Providing integrated health and social care for older persons in the United Kingdom. project_report. Centre for Health Services Studies, Canterbury


    This report provides an overview of the development of integrated health and social care provision for older people in the UK. It explore why integration is important, identifies the main impediments to effective integration, considers failed past attempts and current initiatives designed to promote joined-up thinking and seamless care for older people, identifying the main models.

Total publications in KAR: 30 [See all in KAR]
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Research interests

The main focus of my work is embodiment and age. My interests cross the sociology/social policy divide. Much of my recent work has been concerned with bringing sociological insights to areas of social policy that are not traditionally analysed in these terms, notably social care. 


My current work is located in cultural gerontology. I am co-editing for Routledge The Handbook of Cultural Gerontology which will bring together key authors and subjects in this emerging field.

I am the joint convenor, with Dr Wendy Martin of Brunel University, of the British Sociological Society Study Group BSA Study Group: Ageing, Body and Society. The group has an active programme of seminars and day conferences with international speakers.

Clothing, age and the body

I am currently engaged in a series of interconnected research projects addressing the role of clothing and dress in the changing constitution of age.

The research I am currently writing up, funded by ESRC, explores the intersection between ageing, the body and dress from the perspectives of both older women and the fashion system, addressing debates about identity and consumption.
Related papers (PDF files):

Consumption, babyboomers and later life

The research in conjunction with Dr Shinobu Majima and funded by British Academy, explores the spending patterns of cohorts of older women, 1961-2006, in relation to clothing, hairdressing and cosmetics.

Dementia and dress

I am starting a new ESRC funded project on dementia and dress, exploring questions around embodiment, identity and the self.


I was co–convener of the ESRC Seminar series: Bodywork: Critical Themes and Future Agendas. Bodywork here is employment focusing directly on the bodies of others whether patients, clients customers – manipulating, touching, assessing, cleaning adjusting and otherwise managing bodies. Such hands-on work is a component in a variety of occupations. I am co-editor with Carol Wolkowitz, Rachel Cohen and Sarah Nettleton of the 2011 Monograph and special issue of Sociology of Health and Illness on this subject.

The body in social care

I have a particular interest in the body in social care and in 2000 published an analysis of the provision of personal care: Bathing, the Body and Community Care, Routledge. This was based on an ESRC-funded study of personal care that looked at provision from the viewpoint of both providers (careworkers and recipients), older and disabled people.


Informal care

 I have written on informal or family based care, particular in relation to the presence or otherwise of support for carers and its effectiveness: Carers Perceived: Policy and Practice in Informal Care, Open University. (PDF) I have also engaged in comparative work on this subject.


Food and diets

 I have a long term interest in the sociology of food. I have written on the history and ideology of the vegetarianism in Britain in the nineteenth end twentieth centuries. I have recently contributed to an historical analysis of Modern Asceticism that encompasses food practices.   I interested in obesity and eating disorders, the control of the body and food, and food and older people.


I have undertaken research on a range of subjects including:

  • Study of bathing and personal care for older people, ESRC-funded, Bathing – the Body and Community Care, Routledge, 2000
  • Support for informal carers, funded by the Department of Health and undertaken at Social Policy Research Unit, University of York. Twigg, J and Atkin, K. Carers Perceived, Open University Press 1994
  • International comparisons in relation to informal care, OECD funded.
  • Evaluation of domiciliary care for older people, Department of Health funded, PSSRU, University of Kent
  • Vegetarianism in nineteenth and twentieth centuries, a study in the structure of an ideology


My interests cross the borders of sociology and social policy and I am keen to supervise students in the areas of my past and current research, as well as in fields where I have a reading and research interest but am not currently doing research. These include:

  • Clothing and dress
  • The body in health and social care
  • Ageing and the body
  • Cultural theories of ageing
  • Social care and older people
  • Home care and residential services
  • Carework and the care workforce
  • Spatial and temporal analysis of social and health care
  • Cultures of bathing
  • Food
  • Informal care

I would be particularly interested in supervising studies on the following:

  • Older men and clothing
  • Aesthetic labour at work: age discrimination, and the management of appearance through clothing at work for 50+
  • Role of institutional dress in relation to long stay faculties in the past for both older and disabled people, a historical study
  • Ethnographic study of the role of clothing within long term care facilities
  • Ethnographic study of food in care institutions
  • Work on design of clothing for older people
  • Hairdressing and appearance in relation to older women
  • Clothing and death

If you have a proposal in these areas and you are interested in studying at the University of Kent, please email me to discuss further.


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I teach a variety of subjects across the school. My specialist areas include: The Social Politics of Food and Social Care. I also teach on postgraduate courses and act as a PhD supervisor.

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  • Joint convener of BSA Study Group Ageing, Body and Society.


  • Editorial board member of Journal of Social Policy.
  • Editorial board member of Ageing & Society.
  • Editorial board member of Journal of Aging Studies.
  • Editorial board member of International Journal of Ageing and Later Life.
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Websites of interest in this field


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Professor Julia Twigg


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Telephone: +44(0)1227 823072 Fax: +44(0)1227 827005 or email us

SSPSSR, Faculty of Social Sciences, Cornwallis North East, University of Kent, Canterbury, Kent CT2 7NF

Last Updated: 29/05/2014