Among formal tuxedo accessories, the cummerbund isn’t the most popular. Oftentimes, this accessory is misunderstood and underappreciated in today’s formal accessories. The popularity of the cummerbunds tends to wax and wane like the moon, but its essential function to a proper black-tie event remains the same.
What’s the Right Spelling?
Many people get confused about the spelling of this word. The correct one is “cummerbund,” but many call it the “cumberbund” or “cumberband” or “cumberbun.” The word got misspelled as “cumberbund” a lot that Merriam-Webster Dictionary added it as an alternate spelling. But the truth is, “cummerbund” is the proper spelling.
Origins of Cummerbunds
The cummerbund is a fashion accessory that crosses continents and bridges cultures. It began in India, and they called it the “kamarbands.” The meaning behind the word is pretty obvious: “kamar,” which means waist, and “band,” which literally means band. Indian people wear it as a bright and flashy accessory, which sole purpose is to jazz up the wearer’s ensemble.
The use of it as a cummerbund was started by the British military personnel stationed in India. In the 1850s, the British army normally wore waistcoats or vests under their jackets, as the rules of their day required that they dress in full formal attire during their formal dinners. But because of the tropical heat in India, the army decided to preclude the use of tuxedo vests and adapt the locals’ bright sashes for the waist. This is where the cummerbund began as a cooler covering for their dining wear waist. It helped them maintain a formal appearance.
In the true British Imperial style, the military men took away the flare of the dramatic and colorful kamarbands and made them black. In England, they adopted it as a regular dinner wear attire, and a Victorian fashion trend was born.
Some years later, the tuxedo with cummerbund made its debut in Tuxedo Park, New York. The accessory was first worn as white tie without the tails. The tuxedo began to come to its own, and the black bow tie and black waistcoat became the norm. As they develop this new black tie dress attire, the aristocracy borrowed a style from the British military and adapted the black cummerbunds as an appropriate waste covering. This made the cummerbund a staple in men’s formal wear since then.
Purpose of Cummerbunds
Few people are aware of the functions of the cummerbund, and a lot of people feel that it’s completely pointless. The modern purpose of a cummerbund is to cover the waist. Black tie attire is very timeless due to the principles on which it is founded. It is won so that every working part of the men’s ensemble is covered. Buttons have a satin facing. The outer seams of formal trousers are faced with a satin stripe. Shirt buttons are replaced by studs and cuff links. So, the cummerbund works to cover the waistband where the awkward shirt bunching often occurs.
In short, cummerbunds function as a waist covering to prevent your shirt from peeking out bellow the buttoning point of your jacket. With a cummerbund, the only part of your shirt visible is above the chest, forming a V-shape that makes a man look more masculine.
Benefits of Using Cummerbunds
Cummerbunds are not that popular anymore, but let us give you the benefits it offers. Perhaps if you have learned about it, you will be convinced to wear one.
1. Crumb catchers
When the British military first wore this accessory with upward-facing pleats, they discovered that it works as an excellent crumb catcher. In fact, it’s the nickname given to this accessory even for today.
2. Ticket holders
When the aristocracy and the Victorian dandies wore cummerbunds, they often use it to hold ticket stubs to the opera or symphony. It’s a convenient solution, and it keeps a gentleman from rummaging through his pockets for them.
When worn correctly, the cummerbund can create a slimming effect on men’s waist. This makes a man look taller because of a thinner waist.
4. Color moderation
For modern-day weddings and proms, it’s getting popular for men to wear the colors of their female counterparts. They usually match the color of their date’s or female partner’s attire with their accessories, such as cummerbund and bowtie. If a gentleman matches his partner’s attire with his vest, it looks very noticeable, which can be awkward for some men if it’s a feminine color. With a cummerbund, the color swatch stays smaller and more understated.
Since it’s smaller than a vest, cummerbunds are more relaxed covering options for the waist.
How to Wear a Cummerbund
While it may look like a simple waistband accessory, there’s actually a right way to wear it. Cummerbunds were traditionally used as a crumb catcher, so the pleats must go up.
Since it’s a waist covering, one should wear it at their natural waist. The trousers or slacks of the wearer should be around the level of the navel. Half the cummerbund must cover the trousers, and the upper half must cover the shirt. Wearing it too high or too low can ruin its purpose and aesthetic effect. It’s best worn with a matching bow tie – one that is made of the same fabric and color. As mentioned earlier, you can use the cummerbund to match your lady.
Some style experts say that it’s also great to pair it with a single-breasted tuxedo, and it must cover the bottom button of the shirt and the waist of the pants to create a smooth look from tip to tail.
You can wear your cummerbund with braces or suspenders as well. The cummerbund can work as a smooth cover so that the place where the pants and the suspenders meet is concealed.
The cummerbund should not be worn with a vest, but rather as a substitute of one. The choice of wearing a vest or a cummerbund is up to you, and it’s a matter of personal comfort. A vest or a waistcoat will work better in colder months, while a cummerbund is preferred during summer and spring. If you’re short and stocky, a cummerbund might not be suitable for you, as it will only accentuate your tummy and make you look shorter. If that’s your body type, it’s better to opt for a vest and coat combo to hold that gut in.