Style guru and entrepreneur Camilla Thulin is one of Sweden’s most famous, distinguished, and versatile clothing creators and costume designers in theatre, opera, shows and film. In addition, she regularly returns as author. In her, to date, four well-received books on style, she emphasizes the affirmation of the mature woman and how she, with preserved dignity, should dress flatteringly for her age: “My goal is for all women to feel strong and beautiful, regardless of age or size.”
Camilla Thulin grew up in the affluent Stockholm suburb of Saltsjö-Duvnäs, where Vogue magazine was regularly read and clothes were often sewn up in line with French models and prototypes. Already as a ten-year-old, she started collecting finer vintage clothes. Discarded evening dresses from mom’s and grandma’s wardrobe and elegant shoes that mom’s friends had grown tired of, were all given a new home.
Shortly after graduating from Beckman’s College of Design in 1985, Thulin started her own clothing brand and has since created a fashion that is sustainable from all aspects. Since then, her activities have been divided between ready-made clothing, fine sewing and performing costumes.
Thulin’s creative range extends from the extravagant costumes for the Euro disco group Army of Lovers to tighter Nobel banquet creations to, among others, minister of finance Magdalena Andersson. Thulin has created show clothes for cream-of-the-crop Swedish artists like Barbro “Lill-Babs” Svensson, Björn “Blue Swede” Skifs and Lisa Nilsson. Through the years, she has done several creations for assorted Eurovision Song Contest contestants.
She has also designed wine bottles and the Pink Ribbon for breast cancer awareness, been a style advisor to politicians and educated the TV audience in the series Kvalitet (Quality), a show that highlighted all aspects of our clothes, including history and material manufacturing, textile care, environmental consequences and sustainable thinking in a globalized world.
With similar enthusiasm as she praises vintage and slow fashion, she has been a style commentator at large festivities. Thulin has had assignments with most major theatre stages and created creations for performances such as Piaf (1999) and Amadeus (2005) at the Stockholm City Theatre and Evita (2001), A Chorus Line (2002) and Sound of Music (2003) at the Gothenburg Opera. She dressed Helen Sjöholm’s Eliza in Tomas Alfredson’s interpretation of My Fair Lady at the Oscar Theatre in 2008. In the same year, she managed to design the costumes for Jekyll & Hyde – The Musical at the China Theatre in Stockholm with Michael Samuelsson in the lead role(s).
Given that Thulin’s hallmarks at the beginning of her career were mainly corsets and sophisticated fancy lingerie, it was unpredictable, or perhaps destined, that she created the costumes for Jösses flickor – återkomsten (appr. Jeez, Girls – The Return) when the Stockholm House of Culture & City Theatre 2006 presented a sequel and update of Suzanne Osten and Margareta Garpe’s 1970’s classic.
At The Royal Dramatic Theatre, Thulin has created costumes for, to name just one, Gösta Ekman’s production of Molière’s The Miser (2009). For the Malmö Opera, she created the Russian turn-of-the-century costumes for Doctor Zjivago (2014) and at Göta Lejon she got to adorn the ensemble in 1920s attire in Woody Allen’s Bullets over Broadway in 2016.
Thulin has had ongoing collaborations with several directors from time to time, like Ronny Danielsson, with whom she did Hair and the Moulin Rouge-like musical Pippin at the Malmö Opera. Director Sunil Munshi is another of Thulin’s regular collaborators. At Uppsala City Theatre, they did Diktatorsfruar after Theresia Walser’s play Ich bin wie ihr, ich liebe Äpfel and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant at The Royal Dramatic Theatre in 2017.
In 2016, Thulin’s distinguished career was celebrated at the Stockholm House of Culture with the exhibition Camilla Thulin – Costumes, Corsets and Army of Lovers.
– My ways of expressing myself have always been a little too much, I want it to be extra feminine, or masculine – extra too much bust and colour. Totally not PC, according to herself.
Thulin has had one foot in the film world since the late 80’s when she worked as clothing assistant on Jönssonligan på Mallorca (The Jönsson Gang in Mallorca) and also made clothes for Jonas Cornell’s Riktiga män bär alltid slips (Real Men Always Wear Ties, 1991). A few years later, she entered an ongoing collaboration with Colin Nutley as the creator of the clothes for Sånt är livet (Such is Life, 1996), a film about a single bar pianist who dreams of achieving her life goals as she approaches her thirties.
Nutley and Thulin would team up again for the 1950s-set drama Under the Sun (Under solen, 1998), which would receive a nomination for the best foreign-language Oscar, and in 2000 Thulin was given the task of equipping the all-star female ensemble in Gossip, where every single suit, pair of sunglasses and slouch hat fits to a tee. Their next joint venture, The Queen of Sheba’s Pearls (2004) reunites actors Helena Bergström and Rolf Lassgård (from Under the Sun) with the plot set in 1950s England, with all the trimmings of vintage and period outfits. Thulin is also the costume designer for Nutley’s Medicinen (The Medicine, 2014), a story about a woman, again played by Bergström, who joins a medical experiment with some unforeseen consequences.
Thulin does not just move freely between different materials, media or artistic expressions. When working with theatre or film, the starting point is usually a look at old pictures. She will then add, remove, use another fabric or change things around in other ways.
For film, she has been the costume designer for drama films such as Richard Hobert’s Harrys döttrar (Harry’s Daughters, 2005) and Suzanne Osten’s Wellkåmm to Verona (Welcome to Verona, 2006), but has also embraced comedies such as the silly whodunit 7 miljonärer (7 Millionaires, 2006) and the TV series Gynekologen i Askim (The Askim Gynecologist, 2007). She has not least equipped the motley array of characters in the domestic comedy hits Göta Kanal 2 – kanalkampen (Göta kanal 2 – the canal battle, 2006) and Göta kanal 3 – Kanalkungens hemlighet (Göta Kanal 3 – The Canal King’s Secret, 2009) as well as updated popular (if quite unexportable) local favourites such as Åsa-Nisse – welcome to Knohult (2011) and Svensson Svensson – I lust och nöd (Svensson Svensson – for Better or Worse, 2011).
In 2015, Camilla Thulin created the costumes for the holiday family feature En underbar jävla jul (Holy Mess), directed by Helena Bergström. For her costuming contribution to this story of a rainbow family trying their best to keep up with the traditions, Thulin was nominated for a Best Costume Gudbagge in 2016.
In 2018, Thulin designed the costumes for the musical adaptation of Ghost at the China Theatre in Stockholm and in 2019 she supervised all the nuns’ habits, glittering pants and paisley patterns for the musical En värsting till syster (Sister Act), starring Gladys del Pilar and Suzanne Reuter in the main roles.
Louise Lagerström (2019)
(translated by Jan Lumholdt)
Sources: Kvalitet UR-skola, Kulturhuset Stadsteatern
Main profession: Other profession
Kim – den skalliga primadonnan (2017)
Sånt är livet (1996)
Riktiga män bär alltid slips (1991)
En underbar jävla jul (2015)
Svensson Svensson … i nöd & lust (2011)
Åsa-Nisse – wälkom to Knohult (2011)
Ett liv med film – Nils Petter Sundgren (2011)
Göta Kanal 3 – kanalkungens hemlighet (2009)
Gynekologen i Askim (2007)
Göta Kanal 2 – kanalkampen (2006)
7 miljonärer (2006)
Wellkåmm to Verona (2006)
Harrys döttrar (2005)
The Queen of Sheba’s Pearls (2004)
Hus i helvete (2002)
Under solen (1998)
Jönssonligan på Mallorca (1989)
Under ytan (1997)
Vägen ut (1999)
2016: Guldbaggenominerad Bästa kostym för En underbar jävla jul.