Courtesy Salvador Perez
February 23, 2014 02:08 AM

We imagine there are a lot of pretty cool things about having your own show on television, but right now we’re envying Mindy Kaling for having a costume designer who not only brings her as a date to the Costume Designers Guild Association awards but also whips up a custom gown for her to wear on the red carpet. Salvador Perez shared a behind-the-scenes look with us from first sketch to final fitting, and he and Kaling told us about how much fun they have working together — on this and every day on The Mindy Project.

Kaling and Perez’s relationship began when she picked him to work on her show after seeing the movie Think Like a Man (“The women in it were curvy and urban, like I am,” she says). They’ve become close because “he has a great sense of humor, and with the hours on the show, that’s a prerequisite.”

It was that friendship that led Perez, the president of the CDGA, to invite Kaling as his date — and to create the azure one-shoulder embellished gown especially for her. “I wanted something colorful and dramatic,” he says. “I showed her some sketches [below, drawn by illustrator Aasha Ramdeen] and she selected one. Before I was a costume designer, I ran costume workrooms for movies, so designing and making clothes is second nature to me.”

Courtesy Salvador Perez

After selecting the design and the fabric, Perez got to work fitting Kaling with a muslin (a plain cotton version of the dress to ensure it fits perfectly before working with the actual fabric). Kaling enjoyed that step so much she Instagrammed the fitting, saying “This is one of the best parts of my job.”

Says Perez of the collaboration, “We work so well together and I know her body and how she likes her clothes to fit, so she let me design [a gown]. It’s a very elaborate dress, but it came together so beautifully [and] the seamstress on our show Sivorn Price [pictured below] does such beautiful work.”

“Salvador had a vision and I was just excited to be part of it — I trust him implicitly,” Kaling says of the process. “The color, the silhouette, the train, it’s all decadence and drama, cut in the most flattering shape. It felt like I was getting married, so much attention was paid to me looking my absolute best. When you have a gown custom-fit to you, there’s not the hell of trying on dresses and your ego getting hurt because it doesn’t fit in certain places.”

Courtesy Salvador Perez

Perez has had plenty of practice designing clothes for Kaling — typically at least one thing you see on the show each week is made just for her. “I love being able to design and manufacture her wardrobe for the show,” he says. “Most of the coats she has worn this season are my original designs.”

In fact, one of his favorite outfits recently involved a custom coat: “In Episode 220 she wears a black and white houndstooth dress from Trina Turk, with a black and white heart print blouse from C. Wonder and a custom-made golden yellow coat I designed and had made for her. It’s so cinematic.” Kaling, for her part, loved a white-and-gold ensemble that “made her look like a hipster angel” in the episode “Think Like a Peter.”

Kaling’s character Dr. Mindy Lahiri has one of the most covetable wardrobes on TV right now (she’s up there with Olivia Pope for sure), but there’s definitely a healthy dash of Kaling’s own style in there — she’s notoriously a major shopper who loves clothes. We wondered if that helps make things go faster. The answer? Well, kind of. “The fact that Mindy is a shopaholic is a huge help, as she is so on top of what’s new in fashion and we can discuss it often,” Perez said. “Our fittings last three to four hours, as we are having so much fun … She loves fashion and is so open to new designers and looks.”

Even before the final look, we can already tell we love this dress on Kaling. So can we expect any more major custom red carpet moments soon? As a matter of fact, sooner than you think. “She was so impressed with how perfectly the first fitting went, she asked me to design her gown to wear to the Oscars,” Perez said. Says Kaling of her Cinderella CDGA moment, “It makes me think back to when I was a little girl, and how this exceeds even my wildest dreams. I feel so lucky to be his leading lady.”

Are you loving Kaling’s custom gown? If you could have Perez on hand, what would you dream up? Tell us below!

–Alex Apatoff

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