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The Cummerbund: Everything You Need To Know - Rathbones Tailor

The Cummerbund: Everything You Need To Know - Rathbones Tailor


That sash-like piece of material synonymous with evening wear. Often misspelled, misunderstood and as a result discarded. But Rathbones Tailor are here to demystify this piece of formal wear, so that you can be fully confident wearing this flattering, and therefore essential, component of your black tie attire.

First things first; where the devil does it come from? Well the word’s etymology is an Anglicised form of the Hindustani ‘kamarband.’ A combination of the words ‘kamar’ meaning waist and ‘band’ meaning strap. We first see it enter the English vocabulary around 1816 from India which is where our story first begins...

Let’s set the scene. It’s India,1800s and you, a British military officer, have been stationed here for a month now. As an officer you attend many a dinner where black-tie is mandatory and black tie dress code in the 1800s means full three piece dinner suit. That’s a waistcoat under your dinner jacket in temperatures up to 45 degrees. Being savvy, you notice the Indian men are wearing a sort of sash around their midriff. Knowing the main reason for wearing a waistcoat is to cover your waistline, you decide to ditch it in favour of the Indian waist sash. Waistline covered? Check. Temperature reduced drastically? Check. Take a bow sir!

But what is it exactly? And why wear it if we aren’t in sweltering heat? Well, it’s a pleated waist sash worn with a tuxedo jacket. Often made from silk and traditionally black, there are of course exceptions to the rule. A general rule is that your cummerbund matches the colour of your dinner suit trousers (black/midnight blue). However Rathbones Tailor do offer a range of colours for your cummerbund to inject a bit of fun to your outfit. If you do opt for a colourful cummerbund then avoid matching it to your bow tie. Less is more when it comes to dinner dress.

As for why we wear them, I find the cummerbund extremely slimming and therefore very flattering. Is that not reason enough? Well, the primary purpose of the tuxedo cummerbund is to preserve the immaculate presentation of your formal attire. Serving as a waist covering, a cummerbund prevents your shirt from showing below the buttoning point of your jacket, maintaining a seamless transition from trouser to shirt. How to wear is very simple once you know the cummerbund’s nickname: The Crumb Catcher. Worn with pleats facing upwards, one’s cummerbund might indeed catch crumbs. A genuine use for the cummerbund, however, was as a ticket stub holder for the theatre. Either way, you’ll need those pleats facing upwards. You’ll never forget now! And you’ll want the cummerbund to be covering equal parts trouser and shirt. So there you have it, The Cummerbund. So simple yet bursting with history! Below are some take home points to make sure you have complete confidence in your evening wear attire.

5x Take Homes: 1) Originally chosen as a replacement for the waistcoat, it’s main purpose is to cover the wearer’s waistline.

2) If wearing a black or midnight blue tuxedo, one should opt for a cummerbund to match their trouser colour. However you can’t go wrong with black.

3) If you do choose a colourful cummerbund then we suggest avoiding a matching bow tie.

4) Pleats face upwards. Say no more.

5) If the cummerbund is 5 inches at its widest point then 2.5 inches cover your trousers, 2.5 inches cover your shirt.