Some women will do anything to be thin. Charla Krupp's not one of them.
"I'd rather follow my rules for dressing thin and be a few kilos overweight than starve," the former Glamour magazine beauty director says from New York.
"And to prove it, there's a picture of her looking horrible in her book How to Never Look Fat Again, followed by a shot of her an hour later looking great.
"Everyone wants to know how much weight I lost. The point is what a difference clothes can make. And hairstyling. And shoes."
She won't reveal her vital statistics.
"I made a pact not to tell my age and my size goes up and down like lots of women. I am five feet [152 centimetres] tall and was 15 pounds [six kilograms] heavier when I wrote the book."
Now she is what her husband, Richard Zoglin, calls "just gorgeous". Her approach, to put it mildly, is different from other self-help books. Plus-size models illustrate her theories and, coining the terms High Fat and No Fat, she treats clothes like food.
"We all know the calorie counts. No Fat is broccoli and hard-boiled eggs, High Fat is hamburger and doughnuts. So consider clothes fattening and ask, 'How many calories is this? I can't wear it."'
She says overweight women make terrible mistakes wearing big T-shirts, huge dresses and elastic-waisted pants.
"You can't find your body in those clothes. The overall shape is blobby. It's better to show it, your bones don't change."
A-line dresses and straight-leg jeans with short, curvy jackets are the answer. Another mistake is too-tight clothes revealing back fat, aka muffin tops.
Madam, go up a size. Underwear is a disaster. Bras are stretched ("they're only good for 100 washings"). Bikinis, boy shorts and thongs don't compress, "so if you want to wear sexy little things, don't".
If this is beginning to sound hard, relax. But not too much.
Krupp's book, designed for those with more than the attention span of a gnat, contains lists such as: Ten Things to Look Thinner by Tonight; If I Knew These 37 Things Sooner, I Would be Thinner; The 100 Most Fattening Things You Can Wear; Skinny Clicks - Your Guide to No Fat Shopping Online; as well as snappy chapters that focus on specific problems.
There's a lot to digest in How to Never Look Fat with a Big Bust: "A V-neck is good, with a hip-length jacket and a long necklace for another focal point away from your breasts.
"Hoist them as high as possible to add inches to the torso. Avoid belts and tight safari jackets with patch pockets."
Readers with a Buddha Belly (aka jelly belly, girly gut, breadbasket) need high-waist shapewear.
"If it sits in your waist you will get a pop-out of flesh. You want it covered all the way to the bra base. I don't know where the flab goes but it goes somewhere."
Tight, light-coloured dresses are High Fat. Black A-line dresses, No Fat.
Shapewear seems to be the answer to almost everything but especially wide hips and thighs. Snap on Spanx Skinny Britches (Oprah Winfrey has "gone off panties" and wears nothing else).
Cargo pants, shorts, pouffy skirts are HF. Knee-length pencil skirts, wide-leg pants, wrap dresses are NF.
Big Booty is having its moment, with Jennifer Lopez and Beyonce maximising their assets but regular bums should wear loose shift dresses or flared skirts.
Dark-denim straight-legs and bum-covering sweaters are NF, whereas skinny high-rise jeans with jazzy logo'd pockets are HF. Ditto evening wear. Big bows, tulle and ruffles are asking for trouble.
"It takes time to find a black sheath dress but when you do, grab it and be happy it's in your closet," Krupp says. Hair down with volume, not up. Ditch the centre part for a slimmer face. A breeze, really.
It's fascinating that workout gear is fashionable again. NF sleek fitted sweat jackets and yoga pants replace HF bulky T-shirts and shorts.
And puffa coats are fat-making and therefore verboten. A black single-breasted A-line coat is svelte-looking; an oversized hat makes the face tiny.
Heavy calves are dealt with brusquely: banish high gladiator sandals and ankle-strap shoes. High heels and black tights turn legs from fleshy to sleek.
In the end, though, isn't this all just a matter of vanity? A shade narcissistic?
"Absolutely not," Krupp fires back. "Women are judged by the way they look, especially now times are tough in the job market. If you can trick someone into thinking you are the best, why not wear clothes to your advantage? It's not vanity. Our society is very judgmental."
Even so, what's wrong with dressing just for comfort? "Well, on your own head be it. Who knows who you'll bump into at the mall? A potential boss? But on your own at home, wear a bathrobe with nothing underneath. I do."
At one point she wrote a chapter on How to Look Thinner in Bed but decided it was "too Cosmo" and changed her mind. "Then I met a friend who said, 'If I could wear shapewear in bed I would."' So she rethought? "Oh, I don't want women to feel pressured. I mean, sleep in a bodysuit all night? I don't think so."
Ten most fattening things to wear
- Shirt dresses
- Bright turtlenecks
- Leather pants
- 12.7-centimetre-wide belts
- Handbags as big as luggage
- Over-the-knee boots
- Round eyewear
- Thick platform shoes
- Tube tops and bustiers
- White coats, pants, shoes, stockings
Ten tips to look thinner by tonight
- A solid-coloured A-line dress
- Black shoes teamed with black opaque tights
- Shapewear (cuts 4.5 kilos)
- Wear a bra to lift your boobs
- Fake tan 6. V-neck sweater (no turtle/crew)
- Curvy, not boxy, jacket
- A controlling camisole
- Skirts five centimetres above the knee
- Loose, skinny belt over a long, thin sweater
- Sydney Morning Herald
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