Do you ever stare in the mirror and wince, certain that you look too heavy? Author Charla Krupp feels your pain. Even though she's a svelte style expert who has appeared on dozens of TV shows and written for top fashion magazines such as Glamour and InStyle, Krupp worries about looking fat. Convinced that most other women do too, Krupp, author of the best-selling book How Not to Look Old, reached out to experts across the U.S. to figure out how women can look 10 lb. thinner by changing the way they dress. The result is her new book, How to Never Look Fat Again: Over 1,000 Ways to Dress Thinner Without Dieting! TIME senior reporter Andrea Sachs caught up with Krupp (who is married to TIME assistant managing editor Richard Zoglin) in New York City before her nationwide book tour.
Why does looking a few pounds lighter matter so much?
We want to look and feel great at all times. We want our self-confidence to be really up there, and when you look in the mirror and you start to pick at your thighs and your calves and it starts to erode your self-esteem, that's not good. It's tougher than ever to hold on to your job these days. People are getting laid off left and right. I'm not saying that if you're overweight you are going to get laid off, but you know employers are looking for every little excuse to get rid of people, so looking good is a great defense. You always want to look young, and you want to look slim, and you want to look in control. We have a lot of negatives in our society attached to people who are overweight sloppy, lazy, undisciplined. You don't want anything negative to affect people's opinions about you, because this is a really tough time that we're living in. Every little detail counts.
You're not saying that people should stop dieting and exercising, are you?
No. I really believe that you do have to diet and exercise, especially as you get older. You have to find healthy food that works for you. You always have to be conscious of what you put in your mouth. You can't just eat like you used to. When we were in college, everybody just ate pizza every night. I thought I was never going to ace the test unless I had a doughnut from the store around the corner. I could never have a doughnut today! You know we have to change our eating habits because our metabolism has slowed down.
What's the most common mistake women make that makes them look heavy?
Any woman who is self-conscious about her body maybe she has a muffin top and a Buddha belly and a big butt and thick thighs wants to cover it up in as big a fabric as possible, like a tentlike shirt or a dress, and elastic pants or drawstring pants, where you really can't see what your shape is. This is not a good thing, because it just makes you look like a blob. You want to show your shape. You want to wear a dress and pull a belt around your waistline to show that your figure is still hourglass, that you have a bust and you have hips but that you do get thinner in the waist.
Lots of women wear black as a solution. What do you think of that?
When I was writing my book, some friends of mine said, "You wear black. What do you need to know? This is the book." And yes, you can wear black, but it's so obvious. I have one friend who only wears black. She goes to the beach, and she looks like an Italian widow in mourning she wears a black long-sleeve shirt and black pants. I mean, it's ridiculous. In the summer, you want to lighten up. You want to enjoy the season. You want to wear pink and white, so I think that just a closet full of black is a downer, and I also think that it makes you look invisible. If you're looking at a sea of people and someone's wearing a bright pink and someone's wearing a black, you are going to gravitate to the color. So one of the problems that women over 40 have in our society is that we do become invisible. People don't pay attention to us anymore. We become part of the furniture. If you want to be that, wear black.
What if you're concerned that you're too top-heavy?
There are a lot of tricks that you can do. I really believe that what you're wearing underneath your clothes is 50% of the game, so you need to have the right bra if you're busty. A good minimizer bra will take you down a size, and a good bra that fits you will take you down a size. Most women are wearing the wrong-size bra, so you know if you're really busty, you do need to pay attention to the kind of bra that you're wearing. Is it stretched out? For some reason, women just don't want to throw their bras out. They don't last forever. You know, we really do need to throw them out at some point. It's not even a thing where you can give it to someone else, because they get all stretched out. They only have so many wearings in them.
Plenty of women are embarrassed by big rear ends. Is there anything you can do to hide that?
The greatest piece to come out recently has been the tunic. It covers your middle section, and it covers your rear end. The only thing is that if you're petite, you really have to watch out that it's not too long and that it's not going all the way down to your mid-thigh. Otherwise, it kind of looks like a sack of potatoes. Another thing that I think is great for women to wear is a dress instead of pants if you have a big butt. Because if you are wearing an A-line dress or a shift dress, it will go right past your butt all the way down to your knee, and your rear end doesn't look so prominent. Don't put a big cinching belt on that focuses on your rear end.
Shoes matter a lot too, don't they?
Yes, they really do. You can kill your entire outfit with shoes. Everybody looks better in a heel, and I know once you reach a certain age you don't want to wear a seven-inch heel or a five-inch heel or maybe even a four-inch heel, but if you could just wear a little heel, and sometimes a platform shoe could be a little easier. If you wear a pump with a platform, it could be easier to walk on, and then a thicker heel could be easier to walk on than a skinny, little pencil heel. And to make it easier to walk, you can also put these little pillow cushions inside your shoes, which really add to the padding and make you feel better.
Is it going to cost me a million dollars to do this?
No! The beauty of this is that it's not just one magic piece that's going to make a difference. You probably have most of these things in your closet. You just have to weed your closet of all the things that are making you look fatter than you are.