The Mindy Project

Courtesy of Hulu

The Mindy Project

Courtesy of Hulu

Mindy Kaling and Salvador Perez at Neiman Marcus

Fill 1
Fill 1
September 15, 2015
Online Originals

Dressing Mindy

The collaboration between The Mindy Project's Mindy Kaling and her costume designer Salvador Perez is a meeting of the minds - in living color.

Sarah Hirsch

The fourth season of The Mindy Project premieres tonight (9/15) on Hulu.

After being canceled by FOX earlier this year, the series was picked up by the online streamer for 26 episodes, putting the show into syndication and easing the minds of Mindy fans everywhere.

Now, week by week (which is how Hulu will release the episodes, eschewing the typical mass-drop for streamers), questions will be answered: What will Mindy be like as a mother? How will her relationship with Danny turn out? And what fantastic (and possibly matching) outfits will she and the baby wear?

This past summer Mindy Kaling moderated a conversation with The Mindy Project’s Emmy-nominated costume designer Salvador Perez at the Neiman Marcus in Beverly Hills for a fashion-focused FYC event.

Emmy magazine contributor Sarah Hirsch was on hand to interview the two separately beforehand. The previously unpublished exchanges follow.

Mindy Kaling

What are some of the differences between your personal style and that of your character’s, Mindy Lahiri?

Kaling: My personal style, because I’m a comedy writer, is very casual and very L.A. This morning when I went to work I wore ripped jeans, Adidas slides and a grey t-shirt.

I also love color, but right now I’m wearing a Mindy Lahiri outfit, and it is a real costume, there’s no mistaking it. I can’t believe so many choices were made in putting it together, it’s so cool, and it works.

Did Sal help you with this outfit?

Kaling: Oh yeah, Sal put this in my office, and was like, “This is what you’re wearing today.” This is a costume that I wore on the show. I was like, “Ok, great.”

What are your color preferences? What do you gravitate towards?

Kaling: I go through phases like anybody else. I’ll see someone very chic and I’ll think, “That’s how I’m going to dress from now on.”

I just came from Cannes and I had so many colorful outfits, and it was all about more is more.

And now I’m in the phase of breaking new stories for the show and I’m in work mode, so I’m feeling very chic and in control and I’m wearing a very minimalist, L.A. girl style. Flats, faded jeans, cool tank tops.

Is there a tipping point with your character’s fashion choices? Do you ever feel like there’s one too many accessories or too much color?

Kaling: I have no measure for that, but Sal is really good about taking that one item off. I would dress up like a Christmas tree if it was possible.

What about personally? Do you have any style guidelines you try to live by? Like the Coco Chanel maxim to take off one accessory before going out the door?

Kaling: I’m the opposite. When I leave I’m like, “Do you have all of your jewelry on? Wear every piece of jewelry that you have.”

A lot of times with fashion there are words thrown around like "elegant" and "timeless" and "effortless." And those are just bad adjectives that I don’t particularly understand or put a big premium on.

I don’t ever want to look effortless in my life. I like effort, effort shows that you care. So sometimes with a lot of mainstream fashion advice I just go, “Eh.”

What are the three words you’d use to describe your style?

Kaling: For my personal style or Mindy Lahiri’s style?

How about both?

Kaling: Oh God, so six words. Ok, Mindy’s style is bold, feminine, tailored. My style, my Mindy Kaling style is, lately…grey, L.A girl, and simple.

Ok, so opposites really.

Kaling: Right now it’s the opposite. But around the holiday time, or if I go on vacation I look ridiculous.

Salvador Perez

What was your first meeting with Mindy like?

Perez: We talked about her love of fashion and how she wanted the show to be aspirational.

When I first got the call for a show about an OB-GYN I thought, “Well I don’t want to do that. Scrubs? Ugh.” It’s funny, because we’ve taken scrubs to the next level. They’re completely cut to fit her body.

How has your work relationship developed?

Perez: You can make anything look good with alterations and Mindy understands that now. She comes in after work and we fit from 6:00 to 10:30 at night. She comes in on Saturdays on her day off and we have a four-hour fitting.

She understands that the more effort she puts into it, the better she’s going to look. She runs the show, edits, writes and stars, so it’s hard to find time during the day, but God bless, she’ll give me her lunch hours if she has to.

What does she gravitate towards?

Perez: She’s not afraid of color. We don’t do minty pastels, like Easter colors, but she can wear almost anything. And the combinations I put on her are great. She likes pinks and aquas; she’s a girly girl.

How is Mindy the character different from Mindy in real life?

Perez: It’s her 2.0. I think the character is much more whimsical, and much more cute and sweet. And Mindy in real life is a diva.

Mindy personally is much more sophisticated, and I love to see her style evolution. One day she’ll come into the office in fitted jeans and heels or boots and a blazer pushed up with an asymmetrical t-shirt. And the next day she’s in a torn sweater with shredded jeans and sneakers.

She just loves clothes, and it’s such a rarity for me as a costume designer because actors hate fittings. They don’t want to come in, they’re like, “Just make it work.” And she just relishes all of it.

How trendy will you go on the show?

Perez: I don’t do trends. The biggest fear for me as a costume designer is that something is dated as soon as you watch it. So I try to be more stylish, because style lasts forever and trend is of the moment.

What’s the process like for you, to figure out a character through their clothes?

Perez: As a costume designer your job is to make it so that the audience knows who that character is as soon as they see them on screen. And it’s a matter of keeping the characters in your mind when shopping, because something can be the right size for so-and-so but that’s not right for the character.

Was there ever a time when you and Mindy just didn’t agree on something, fashion-wise?

Perez: The first six episodes were a discovery process. We were communicating, but I think there was a lot going on, it was a new show, we were trying to figure out who the character was.

And then one day in a fitting it just clicked. Because I think I went a little out of the box. I had been playing it a little safe.

Do you remember that outfit?

Perez: Yes, it’s the outfit she wore with Seth Meyers: the yellow cardigan, the blouse with the little bow and the plaid skirt. It was a little over the top, but it worked because it was so unique; taking a print, a color and a plaid.

It can be a little hectic and chaotic if you’re not paying attention, but if you combine them right it’s beautiful.

Do you have any fashion rules you live by?

Perez: My background was as a cutter/fitter before I was a designer. I build costumes, so I understand the fit of things. It’s always about fit.

Mindy always says, “It’s too long for me.” And I’ll say, “Yes, that’s because it was made for a fit model who’s 5’7” and you’re 5’4’’. Yes it’s too long for you; it’s always too long for you.”

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