The Vagenda

A Review of Charla Krupp’s “How to Never Look Fat Again”

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It’s hard for me to admit this but, up until now, I have been in the habit of simply waking up and getting dressed– without fully considering how each and every one of my choices may affect my fatness that particular day. See, I erroneously believed that my fatness had to do with how much fat I actually carried on my body; I learned this weekend, however, that along with worrying about being too fat, I should make sure not to dress too fat either. I knew a few of the more obvious fashion faux-pas to avoid (horizontal stripes, tight/clingy fabrics, etc), but I had never before considered how my more subtle wardrobe choices, from my eye-glasses to my foot-wear, may wreak havoc with my weight. Luckily, I learned all about this complicated and crucial topic from Charla Krupp in her book “How to Never Look Fat Again: Over 1,000 Ways to Dress Thinner.”

The book is set up in sections: a chapter for each body part (how to dress for a fat face, fat arms, fat ankles, etc), a chapter for each season, and one chapter each for workout-wear and eveningwear. In each chapter, Krupp includes a checklist to see if you have the problem in question, a “high-fat vs. no-fat” list where clothing and accessories are “analyzed for their potential fat-making content,” a “Going to Extremes” passage, where Krupp discusses and recommends some of the pricier solutions, including a number of cosmetic-surgery procedures, a vows sections (“I WILL NOT wear a backless dress,” “I WILL NOT wear shoes with ankle straps,” etc) and a threatening “DON’T YOU DARE…” section where Krupp leaves you with a final, ominous command before moving on to the next chapter (DON’T YOU DARE settle for ugly comfort shoes!)

Since my ultimate and only priority in life is to carefully calibrate every aspect of my appearance to suggest “slimness,” I found this guide an invaluable tool in the slenderization (spell-check says that “slenderization” is not a word, but Krupp says it is) of my wardrobe. As all women know, the most egregious sin you can commit is being—no, even just dressing fat. Insidious fatness can sneak up on you at any time, and we must always be on our guard.

Krupp brought to my attention a host of hitherto utterly ignored potential insecurities: for instance, Krupp asks “are your brows making you look fat?” Good god! I had never even considered whether my eyebrows were somehow making me look fatter. Krupp explains that “skinny brows won’t make you look skinny—in fact, they’ll do just the opposite.” Furthermore, my eye-wear may be contributing to this fat-face look (well then, goodbye glasses! It’s not about whether or not I can see, it’s about what others see when they look at me) and my solid hair color is making it even worse! Krupp says “high-lights or low-lights? Choose one or the other because the last thing you want is a single block of the same color covering your entire head.” Because, you know, natural hair makes you look heavy. And my straight-across bangs? You guessed it– fat, fat, fat: “Side swept bangs are very flattering, while full blunt bangs will shorten and widen your face.”

Surely after highlighting my hair, sweeping my bangs, darkening my eyebrows, and switching to contacts, the worst of my worries would be over, right? Not even close. From choker necklaces to waist belts, there are a number of seemingly innocuous accessories to beware of. And choosing the right clothing is just as tricky! Heavier women should avoid sleeveless shirts, low cut jeans, and turtle necks, and that’s just the tip of the fat iceberg (fatberg?)

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Ughhhh, put that pudgy whale-arm away!

Perhaps one of the most restrictive chapters is the chapter on calves. If you want to even consider showing your legs, you must first earn “the right to bare legs” by following these rules:

  • Make use of sunless tanning
  • Use spray-on stockings
  • Stay hair-free

(This is probably my favorite part of the book. As if there wasn’t already enough societal pressure to shave your legs, here is one more reason: your gross, hairy legs are making you look FAT!!! For the love of god, Krupp and everyone else seems to plead, just shave already, you hirsute beast! With my glasses and bangs and hairy legs, I must look like an absolute cow–and I’m still only half way through the book)

The proscriptions get even more bizarre; for instance, Krupp warns that if you are going to wear boots, they must be the same color as your legs. “No pale white legs in brown boots. If you have pale white legs, wear brown tights with brown boots. And make sure they’re the same shade—chocolate boots and nutmeg tights can be jarring.” Sheesh. And that’s not the only footwear-decree for chunky-calved ladies—also, you must give up flats. That’s right, high heels from here on out, missy! Never mind the fact that heels can cause irreversible damage to your leg and back muscles—that’s the price of looking slim.

One would think that perhaps in the winter, at least, it would be permissible to wear “bulky” clothing…but nope. Krupp doesn’t care if you’re caught in a freaking blizzard—you must get rid of those high-fat winter coats!!!

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Heeled, leather boots. She may be cold, she may even slip and fall into a snow bank, but damn, she looks slim.

Even at the gym, one must dress for slim-cess (ok, that’s one I made up, not Krupp). No more baggy t-shirts or running shorts allowed. Cover-up that blubber-body with an expensive workout suit that conceals you from head-to-toe in slimming shades of black:

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Going to the gym at all is an alright first step, but remember, health and fitness are a just a side goal. Your ultimate goal should be to look good for others! It’s never OK to dress fat.

So, from head to toe, from the beach to the gym, Krupp helped me revise my wardrobe for almost every occasion—almost. I was concerned by the conspicuous lack of advice regarding high-fat vs. low-fat outfits for funerals. Also, there was little mention of how to avoid the high-fat look during prolonged hospital stays.


Ughh, Hospital gowns widen your torso and add bulk to your figure! Avoid this look at all costs

Ok, but in all seriousness, I guess that if you need to change something to increase your body-confidence, it’s better to change your wardrobe than starve yourself trying to change your body. I almost, almost appreciate shape wear for the same reason—it gives women a way to feel comfortable with their bodies, even when they are a few pounds over their “ideal.”

Nevertheless, this book was comically offensive. Warning women that everything from their hairy legs to their eyebrows might cause them to look fat– and that looking even slightly heavier than you are is the most unforgivable fashion DON’T there is, because your weight is something you should always keep highly conscious and ashamed of– is not the most encouraging message to send out.

Style advice like this implies that there is literally not a single moment or aspect of our lives where we can afford to not think about our weight. I think Krupp means well…but how about if we could stop obsessing about our weight long enough to at least choose winter coats for their warmth, and not their “fat-making content”? Even better, how about everyone just wears whatever they like, all the time? Now that seems to me like a more reliable plan for a confidence-inspiring wardrobe.

- Maia Dendinger

17 thoughts on “A Review of Charla Krupp’s “How to Never Look Fat Again”

  1. Clearly there’s no hope for me: I think the ‘high fat’ outfits look super cute. Not sure about the baggy trackies tucked into wellies, but other than that cute, colourful, cheerful – all good!

  2. And what’s wrong with waist belts?! I love my waist belts. I would like to know why they are wrong, so that I can continue to wear them as a knowing, cheerful ‘fuck you’ to Charla Krupp’s ridiculous rules.

  3. Until around a year ago, I made all my clothes purchases based on whether they made me look thin(ner). I’ve pushed myself to move past this, and I can wear things because I like them, and it has changed so much the way I think about myself every day. The Beauty Myth helped, but on a day-to-day I’ve used the mumlogic of: people don’t care/notice, and if they do then they are mean and I don’t care what they think. Not totally issue-free as a thought process but I find it works.

    Which is why I feel a lot of things about this article. Mostly that this book should go in the bin and we should be investing – on a personal, family, friend, education level – into raising our young girls and boys with the self-esteem to not even consider buying this book. But damn it is HARD, even when you think you’re aware of it, and I don’t think the attitude some feminists have of ‘it’s so easy, I know what the media are trying to do, I wear what I want! (So quirky!)’ is more self-congratulatory than helpful. I’m glad they feel that way but I am not ashamed to admit that I don’t.

  4. Melissa, I LOVE the Beauty Myth, it changed my whole worldview, and I think your Mumlogic sounds like a very good way dealing with things.

    I hope I don’t give the impression in my article that ‘its so easy’– it definitely isn’t easy for me either! I found Krupp’s book easy to laugh at because the advice was so bizarre and proscriptive (and also seemingly useless– none of the ‘low-fat’ outfits seem to actually make the women look any thinner, anyway!) But usually I am still heavily influenced by the media. There are plenty of awesome dresses in my closet that I never wear because they cling to my stomach or butt in a certain way– and I do own a pair of spanx (though I can rarely bear to squeeze them on). For all my talk, I am still a big bundle of insecurities. I’m not ashamed to admit that– if anything I’m just ashamed of the culture that still makes us feel that way!

  5. (off topic but) horizontal stripes / vertical stripes is a myth – in fact it’s more like the other way round – horizontal is ‘slimming’ whilst only the thinnest can get away with vertical

  6. But wouldn’t brown tights with brown boots just make you look like a big poo?

    I feel a book coming on – ‘How To Never Look Like a Big Walking Talking Poo: 1000 ways to avoid fecal fashion’

  7. But of course you all forget – no fat winter coats help you burn fat! Never mind that without all that padding from the warm winter jacket you’ll slip on inevitable ice and shatter your coccyx (don’t forget about avoiding that hospital gown, wear something nice and restricting incase of attractive doctors!), you’ll be in top shape to be naughty Mrs. Claus at your local shopping centre! Hooray for body shaming!

  8. Just found out my work safety boots are making me look fat. Now i have to shop for steel toe capped stilettos.

  9. I notice how none of the models used are actually fat. I am actually fat, and hence, everything I wear makes me look fat, because I’m fat underneath it all.

    I don’t wear heels because I fall over immediately.
    I don’t wear black because I reserve that exclusively for funerals and it makes me look ill.
    …Ok. I’ll give her the gypsy top one, because they’re hideous on everyone.
    And quite honestly there’s nothing better in hospital than a hospital gown. It’s clean every day and everyone is wearing one, and you can just let it all hang out because no one cares. In fact half the fat nurses would be better off in one than those tight uniforms, poor things.

    Charla Krupp, I think you’re a judgemental skinny minnie and I bet you have a really boring wardrobe. I’m off to eat a pie while wearing tie dye slacks.

  10. I just dont know how to express the revulsion and despair this book has fostered in me. I feel like starting a campaign on Avaaz to get it pulled off the shelves…..its just so wrong on so many levels :-(

  11. This morning, I spent half an hour trying to work out what to wear. I knew what I WANTED to wear, but tried it on and deemed myself ‘too fat’ in it. next outfit, same thing. finally, nearly in tears at 8am, I went for a dummed down, plainer version of what I wanted to wear just to appear slimmer.

    It’s exhausting. I want out of this stupid cycle of dressing for…who? Wearing that crazybright yellow skirt would have made me smile, and these jeans are making me feel uncomfortable. Would anyone else even have noticed?!

    A book like this is laughable – but it’s scary how much it’s infiltrated my thinking – Gok Wan, Trinny and Susannah, numerous others. When can we stop altering our most basic decisions based on stupid pressures!

  12. I have the nagging suspicion that this book is meant to be sarcastic and not to be taken seriously.