See How Love Fits into Mindy Kaling's Closet
'The Mindy Project' costume designer dishes on just how the fictional—and fabulous—single girl's new relationship status will impact her wardrobe.
When we last left Mindy, Danny was (finally!) delivering her the grand, rom-com–worthy gesture she had always dreamed of—with her own comical twist that landed them both on the floor of the Empire State Building, naturally. Just before the season finale aired back in May, we caught up with The Mindy Project's costume designer Salvador Perez (left), who told us that Mindy Kaling’s colorful ensembles are influenced by her character's dating life. Now that season three is almost here, we decided to check back in to see how happily ever after is working out for her and her closet.
What do you like best about working with Mindy Kaling? “One of the fun things with Mindy is that it’s very aspirational. The reality is that an OB/GYN in New York wouldn’t have this wardrobe—she’d be in scrubs all the time—but would the show be as fun to watch? I think that the costumes really bring an added layer to the characters. And you know that she’s fastidious and detail-oriented, and working with someone like Mindy, who loves the process, makes the job so much easier.”
How will Mindy’s new relationship status impact her wardrobe? “Mindy and I had a conversation about it, and on the last episode, there were a lot of dates. And you always put your best foot forward on a date because you’re trying to show off. Now she’s a little more settled in, so we’re going to see less date clothes and more life clothes. There’s going to be a casualness about her hanging out with Danny because Danny, himself, is so unfussy that you’ll see a slight turn to that while she’s with him. But, at the same time, Mindy’s Mindy, and she’s never going to give up being the diva.”
How do you get their opposing styles to play off one another? “Danny's look is so specific; it’s very Chris Messina-centric. In my very first meeting with Mindy two and a half years ago, when I had the interview, she said, ‘Put Chris in Steven Alan shirts and Ralph Lauren jeans, and he’ll be happy,’ and, literally, that’s all he’ll wear. As a costume designer, I want to mix it up; we’ll have 12 versions of a light-gray shirt or a dark blue shirt. He’s in his mold and that’s his little world, and he likes that. Mindy is all about color and flair, and I think that it’s actually visually pleasing to see that dichotomy. They’re such different people, but they work. I think that her colors and loudness balances out with his grays and calmness."
Will we see them trying to change each other this season? "There’s actually a montage of that in the opening scene of the first episode. Mindy loves Chris in a blazer, tie and shirt. Chris Messina hates that. At least once an episode, I try to get him in a blazer or a tie, and he’s like, ‘I’m not that guy.’ If it was up to Danny, he would like Mindy in nothing but an LBD. We started going in that direction, and then we realized we weren’t having as much fun with it. And then it [becomes] a statement: Do you change for the man in your life? That’s a bold political statement that I don’t think Mindy would do. I’ve read eight scripts so far—boy, the writing’s good this year—and it's really about them dating and the ups and downs of their relationship. I will adjust her clothes to fit the story line, but as a general rule, I’m not going to stop Mindy from being Mindy."
Mindy's outfits are always so daring. Do you have any tips for our readers on how to be more fearless with their own fashion choices? “I always say, ‘Clothing is not permanent. Have fun with it.’ It’s not a tattoo. I think that if you creep color into your everyday wardrobe, whether a blazer or a blouse or a scarf, you stand out. One of the reasons I like color so much is that it stands out. Our show takes place in New York, and most New Yorkers would be in very dark colors. There are so many cinematic moments when Mindy’s walking across the street in New York, and all you see is her because she’s in a bright gold coat, and everyone in the background is in grays and blues and blacks. I can really manipulate the world you’re watching just by having her in color. I always have Mindy in color, even on the subway, so that you just notice Mindy, and New York just sort of fades into the background. That’s the whole point: you don’t want to fade into the background. And I think that’s why people are a little afraid of color, but its not a tattoo or forever. Just experiment, have a little fun with it and stand out."
Is there anything she won’t wear? “Absolutely. Mindy Kaling and Mindy Lahiri will never wear pastels; she hates Easter colors. It’s very rare that Mindy says no to something, but she’s very color-conscious. But she also said she would never wear white, and I get her in white dresses all the time.”
Catch the season premiere of The Mindy Project, tonight at 9:30pm PST on FOX.