A cummerbund is an absolutely great accessory for someone wearing a tuxedo or in a black tie/white tie event. The pity is, less and less people are doing it now. The trends of modern formal dressing tend not to favor the cummerbund, basically ignoring a very practical and stylish piece of clothing accessory.
What is a Cummerbund?
Cummerbund is a portmanteau of two Persian-origin words - kamar (meaning waist - changed to cummer in English) and band (meaning a sash). The accessory originated in India, probably inspired from the colorful sashes that Indian royalty frequently wore over their elaborate dresses. This was quickly adopted and adapted by British military officers in India - and the cummerbund was born.
In its modern form, the cummerbund is a wide, pre-tied and folded sash that can be wrapped around the waist.
The classical colors are black, midnight-blue and white (for white-tie events, to be worn with a white tux jacket). These are pretty much about the only colors worth having - if you want to buy just one, make it black.
Cummerbunds are available in a range of colors besides the above three - but these colors are considered casual. Honestly, who would want to wear a green cummerbund with their suits?
Why Wear a Cummerbund?
A cummerbund does these three things very well:
Hides the shirt ruffle just above the trouser waistband.
When you tuck your dress shirt in your trousers, there is always a scope for a slight ruffle, or bunching, resulting from the gathered fabric of the shirt. Even with extremely careful tucking, the ruffle becomes visible when you sit down. The problem become more pronounced in case of bulkier gentlemen.
A cummerbund will cover this ruffle completely, giving a neat, well-gathered look.
Creates a sleeker, neater profile.
Consider yourself wearing a great black tux - you have the top button done and chatting up with other people. Then , you put your hand in your trouser pocket, raising the jacket flap ever so slightly. Your white shirt become just visible, drawing immediate attention to a body part where you want none.
A cummerbund prevents this.
But more importantly, wearing a cummerbund covers the waist, elongating the trouser profile. With the top jacket closed, the resulting V-shape with the white shirt in background lends a slimmer, sleeker profile to the wearer.
Balances the profile when wearing a Bow Tie
The cummerbund reveals the right proportion of the white dress shirt that balances well with a bow tie. The completely revealed dress shirt balances with a necktie (not desirable with a tux), as does one worn with a vest.
Vest vs Cummerbund: What is Better?
Many would argue that whatever cummerbund does, a vest can do just as well. It can cover the waist, and the hide the bunched shirt fabric just the way a cummerbund does. So why prefer a cummerbund over a vest - and vice versa.
The truth is, vest and cummerbund are two different things, and are adapted to their own purposes - though there can be a slight overlap in their functions.
For example, a vest may not be a good choice in warm, tropical weather (this is one of the main reasons of the cummerbund’s invention).
Also, when you are wearing a tux jacket with peaked lapels, the straight, angular visible lines of the vest may not provide an ideal balance. A cummerbund, on the other hand, works well with all sorts of lapels - peaked, notched and shawl.
How to Wear a Cummerbund?
Originally, the cummerbunds were actually long pieces of fabric, that had to be folded and tied manually. But that is past.
The modern cummerbund is very convenient and easy to wear - with a pre-folded construction, and a couple of buckles that are tied at the back. It is wrapped in a way that the lower half of it lies over the trousers, while the upper half covers the shirt.
The color of the cummerbund should be matched with the trouser. Preferable colors are the classical - black, navy-blue and white.
The cummerbund should be tied in a way that the folded creases point upwards - in a way that the space beneath the fold appears like an extended pocket.
The cummerbund is always paired with a bow tie, and never with a necktie.