Today is Mindy Kaling’s 37th birthday, and we’re using the special day as an occasion to honor her vibrant style, from the red carpet to the set of The Mindy Project. InStyle spoke with Salvador Perez, the Emmy-nominated costume designer of Kaling’s Hulu show who also designs for the star on the red carpet, to get his favorite looks on this total #girlboss.
While Kaling shares a first name with her character on the show, the effervescent and ever-confident ob-gyn Mindy Lahiri, don’t assume that they have the same fashion sense. “Mindy Kaling is very chic and sophisticated,” Perez told us. “Her regular look is very classic.” But when it comes to her character’s style, nothing is off limits.
“Mindy Lahiri is very whimsical and colorful and kind of over the top,” he said. “What I love about Mindy is that she’s very bold. Nothing scares her. It’s so great to work with because there’s always a confidence in Mindy. She goes, ‘Let’s try it.’”
Perez both styles and designs custom clothing for the star, which can mean slightly altering a high-fashion piece to better flatter her figure or creating an entirely new gown for a red carpet event. The latter “makes her very happy” because of the way his designs hug her curves.
“This job is the dream job,” Perez told InStyle. “Most of my career it’s been like, ‘Oh, too much color. Too much sparkle.’ And she’s like, ‘Oh, I want more color. I want more sparkle,’ and the little kid in me loves that.”
The costume designer first turned down the gig when he heard The Mindy Project was set in a gynecologist office, but quickly learned that Mindy Lahiri does not dress like your stereotypical doctor. “Who knew that it was this fabulous spectacular world where I get to play with clothes, we get to custom-make so much and it’s so great.”
In honor of her birthday, join us in browsing Perez’s six favorite looks on the hilarious star, and learn just how these styles came to life, whether on the show or on the red carpet.
1. At the 2016 Vanity Fair Oscar party
Perez custom-made this dress, complete with two thigh-high slits and a crystal beading pattern at the bust. The costume designer revealed Kaling's secret to getting her complexion to glow on the red carpet: applying tinted moisturizer with a bit of shine to her chest and shoulders. "I think Mindy has the most beautiful skin tone ever, and so when she puts a little glow on it, it's spectacular."
2. On The Mindy Project
Kaling looked like the most stylish wedding guest in this Etro maxi. While Perez loved her in this flowing number, don't expect to see her in a princess skirt anytime soon. "She likes body-con dresses. I could never put her in a ball gown. She wants a slimmer silhouette."
3. At the 2016 Costume Designers Guild Awards
Perez also custom-designed this stunning coral dress, the sister to her Vanity Fair Oscar party gown. Perez, who is president of the Costume Designers Guild, has created gowns for Kaling to wear to the awards show for the past three years and 2016's piece was his fave. "I loved the way the coral moved," he told InStyle. Clearly, his style muse agreed. "She loved it so much we cut it up and made it into a cocktail dress and she wore it in an episode where she went to a club. I love that we repurposed that," he said.
4. On The Mindy Project
"This is her homage to Lemonade," Perez said. The designer shortened this lemon-print Dolce & Gabbana dress, making a headband out of the extra material. "We never waste a fabric," he said, calling this one of his favorite looks on the star. "Over the summer, Mindy found the red version with the matching shoes and bag." Kaling rocked the corresponding look in Cannes just days before her birthday.
5. On The Mindy Project
Kaling rocked these floral Moschino separates to go on a date in a recent episode. "She didn’t used to wear florals at all. And I showed her that you just have to find the right floral. It shouldn’t be tiny and repetitive. It should have movement or be sort of sporadic flowers," he told us. "I remember last year she was on the cover of InStyle in a floral dress. I’m like, ha, the woman who would never wear floral."
6. On The Mindy Project
"We found this company called Knitsy Knits and they custom-make knits for us that are spectacular," Perez revealed. This sleeveless top and knit skirt was one of their creations, paired with studded Valentino stilettos. When she first started on The Mindy Project, Kaling was all about chunky heels, but that changed toward the end of Season 2. "Now it's all about Louboutins and Jimmy Choo and Valentino," he said.