The Cummerbund – a classic dinner suit accessory

28 January 2016
The Cummerbund – a classic dinner suit accessory

As we know fashion trends ebb and flow, with new seasons’ bringing with them new looks. An age old accessory which has seemingly suffered as a result of evolving fashion trends is the cummerbund, with it becoming less prevalent in many dinner suit looks.

We’ve taken a look at closer look at how the cummerbund came to be and what to consider if you’re planning on wearing one.

The origins of the cummerbund

The origins of the cummerbund stem from colonial India in the 1850s where local folk often wore sashes around their waist. British military officers saw and took a liking to the accessory and adopted it to wear under their jackets as part of their dining wear instead of a waistcoat. It allowed them to keep their waists covered and proved to be a cooler alternative to wearing a waistcoat in the heat.

Before long the cummerbund made its way onto UK shores and had hit the streets of London, leading to members of the public also adopting the new waist covering. As the popularity of the Tuxedo and the surge in black tie attire grew, cummerbunds were seen as an ideal accessory to be worn with them and have remained so since.

The purpose of a cummerbund

What some people fail to realise is the fundamental and founding rules of black tie attire, with a major one of them being that all working parts of the outfit should be covered.  This is why suit buttons are normally covered in silk while shirt buttons are also covered and sleeve buttons are replaced by cufflinks. Even the seam on trousers is usually covered with a silk strip.

The main purpose of the Cummerbund is to allow for the waist to be covered, with it usually being worn high enough to also hide the area where the shirt is tucked into the trousers. It also brings with it additional aesthetic benefits through hiding the untidy bunched up shirt which can occasionally appear where the shirt is tucked into the trousers along with making the legs look longer and the figure slimmer from the hips.

Dressing tips

Colours – The cummerbund should be reserved primarily for black tie events. While they may not be as popular as they once were, if worn on the right occasion they still provide a quintessential finishing touch to your look. While you’re likely to see suits in a wide range of colours supporting cummerbunds we’d recommend sticking to black or midnight blue which are ideal for black tie events.

Trouser support – Remember the cummerbund does not serve the same purpose as a belt, so if your trousers are somewhat loose then we’d recommend wearing a pair of braces too. Wearing a belt underneath a cummerbund will only cause it to bulk up and ruin the final look. Therefore if your trousers do need supports be sure to opt for braces.

Jacket – Finally cummerbunds look their best when paired with a single breasted jacket.  A well fitted double breasted jacket will tend to cover most of the cummerbund along with the waist and so it’s advisable to partner it up with a single breasted jacket.

Alternatives to the cummerbund

If you aren’t convinced by the cummerbund there are a few alternatives you can try for black tie events. The traditional substitute is to wear a waistcoat. There are many waistcoats available without a back which allow for an added element for comfort in hot weather, however they don’t provide the greatest of looks when the jacket is removed. Another alternative to the cummerbund is wearing a double breasted jacket. As mentioned above, double breasted jackets grant more coverage and if they are well fitted should prevent the waist from being on show.

We still feel there’s plenty of room for cummerbunds when it comes to black tie attire, and with a number of stars sporting them for red carpet events there’s evidently some degree of favourability still held towards them.

Abbas Mahmood
Abbas Mahmood
As a lifelong purveyor of fashion, Abbas has been writing for Hemingway Tailors for 2 years, keeping readers up to date with style trends and delivering a regular insight into the world of tailoring.
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