9   +   1   =  


Dear Virgie,

I want to rock VBO at an upcoming holiday party, but I’m super scared. Should I do it?



You’re in luck. I’m just about the biggest VBO enabler you’ll ever meet! I’ve been rocking the VBO since, like, aught-99 or something.

Oh, wait one second. For those of you who have no idea what we’re talking about, VBO stands for




VBO has long been a source of consternation and controversy in the fashion world, with most of the most conservative fashionistas arguing that people ought to minimize the visibility of their belly by any means necessary. Well, I say: if you’ve got it flaunt it. The Baby Jeez didn’t give you a belly because he wanted you to hide it under a bushel, boo.

Here are 6 of my very favorite pieces of advice for 1st-time VBO-venturers:

[Related: Dear Virgie: I Want to Love My Body but I Don’t Know How]

  1. Wear what you want!

Congratulations! You’re a grown up. So let me repeat # 1 one more time: WEAR WHAT YOU WANT. You didn’t go through your whole life working your sweet ass off to survive this at-times strange and cruel world so you could go to a holiday party at the end of the year wearing something that doesn’t fill you with goddamn Christmas cheer. In my opinion, clothing exists to make you feel like your most amazing and babely self – and your belly is every bit a part of that amazing babely selfhood.

  1. Don’t wait to follow your fashion dreams!

For a long, long, looooong time, I had incredible self-consciousness around my fat bits – especially by lower belly (the roll of chub beneath my belly button). I remember sighing longingly while I stared at pencil skirts and body-con dresses. I told myself “someday I’ll be able to wear that.” Well, fuck someday. Why not make “someday” happen today?

  1. The world won’t stop because people can see your belly.

I know that this sounds a little ridic, but I remember thinking for the longest time that if people saw my belly that the world would literally stop turning. Or something like that. I’m not exactly sure what I was afraid of, but I felt that if people could see my fat that something very, very bad was going to happen. And then I wore a tight dress one day, and guess what? The world didn’t stop turning. In fact, it seemed like most people didn’t even notice. And the people who did were really into it.

[Related: Dear Virgie: How Do I Avoid Getting Fetishized?]

  1. You rule the pencil skirt. It doesn’t rule you.

Sometimes we endow clothing with A LOT of power. But the truth is that our clothes are not sentient beings. They do not have an agenda. They are not sacred. And they do not get to tell us what to do with them. In truth, it’s all those fat-shaming fashion rules that saturate our culture and make us feel like the only way to do fashion is to minimize, minimize, min-i-mize.

  1. Rethink flattering.

The term “flattering” has been used to bully fat people and prevent us from wearing what we want for way too long, girl. Those old fashion rules are tres passé! The exciting thing about fashion is that it’s a tool for us to shape to suit our needs. “Flattering” doesn’t have to mean that you erase the curves and rolls that make your body beautiful and unique. The fashionistas who inspire me the most make fashion work for them on their terms.

  1. Celebrate the unique fashion possibilities of a bigger body!

One of the reasons I’m a big fan of plus size fashion is that I see plus size fashion as its own THING. Plus size fashion is not an extension of straight size fashion (or vice versa), but rather its own unique entity that has the potential to work with the unique qualities of larger bodies. So for example, I hate tiny, subtle prints and very dainty jewelry. Those things often look great on small-bodied people, but I need BIG prints – that don’t get lost on the canvas of my big body – and LOUD jewelry – that doesn’t get lost in my cleavage. I see VBO as part of your plus size fashion toolkit.

Now go forth and share that VBO with the world, girl!



p.s. Here’s an article I did that shows off fat babes rocking all kinds of VBO!

Featured Image: Aarti Olivia of Curves Become Her




Dear Virgie is a weekly advice column by Virgie Tovar, MA, author, activist and one of the nation’s leading experts and lecturers on fat discrimination and body image. She is the founder of Babecamp and the editor of Hot & Heavy: Fierce Fat Girls on Life, Love and Fashion (Seal Press, November 2012) and the mastermind behind #LoseHateNotWeight. She holds a Master’s degree in Human Sexuality with a focus on the intersections of body size, race, and gender. Virgie has been featured by the New York Times, MTV, Al Jazeera, the San Francisco Chronicle, NPR, Huffington Post, Cosmopolitan Magazine Online, and Bust Magazine. Find her at www.virgietovar.com