As well as our beautiful bespoke neckwear we also supply bespoke cummerbunds. The cummerbund really isn’t the most popular formal tuxedo accessory these days but it has a fascinating history. It’s popularity tends to wax and wane like the moon, in today’s fashion climate. So why is it steadfast for proper Black Tie ensembles and why does its popularity change? Lets have a look at the cummerbunds history, function and why they are important for Black Tie formal looks.
The cummerbund fashion originated in Persia and was adopted as dining wear for British military personnel in colonial India. Indian communities often wore sashes around their waist called kamarbands, kamar translating as ‘waist’.
At formal dinners, the British army wore waistcoats under their jackets. But due to the intense heat in India being severely different to the climate in Britain, the British realised their attire was not suitable
in this climate and needed to find a cooler dining uniform. The British military saw the cummerbund worn by sepoys (Indian soldiers) of the British Indian Army and so adopted it to replace their waistcoats.
In the late Victorian period they adapted this kamarband into evening wear and it caught on in Europe where it did not succeed as a replacement for the full-dress waistcoat. A French magazine described it in 1873 as a “wide belt that constitutes yet another grotesque fashion whose slovenly appearance hardly requires mention.”
This fall from fashion in the late Victorian period then appears again in the early Edwardian period as a style of a cut off waistcoat.
In 1924 a US patent application was filed for a novel style of a “waistcoat or vest for dress wear” that consisted only of the bottom portion of the traditional waistcoat. This eliminating the tendency for stiff dress shirts to spill out of the open front of a waistcoat. Two variations were designed, one similar to the Edwardian cummerbund but fastened in the rear with a belt buckle style. The other design was the modern pleated style of cummerbund.
In 1928, increased popularity for the cummerbund was noted in a ‘men’s wear’ article which it described as “a black silk sash used as a replacement for the waistcoat on warm evenings”. By the 1930’s it was noted as a popular and chic waist covering for informal evening wear at warm climate resorts.
The purpose of the cummerbund
The modern purpose of the cummerbund is to cover the messy waist area (where the shirt bunches into the trousers)
at a Black Tie event. Black Tie attire is timeless due to the staying power of the principles on which it is founded.
The birth of black tie in about 1885 was signalled as a loosening of ties, among the well-to-do. Edward VII ditched his tailcoat for a blue silk smoking jacket with matching trousers, made by Henry Poole & Co of Savile Row. It provided the monarch with a more comfortable alternative to the formality of evening tails.
This black tie suit style was adopted in New York by members of the Tuxedo Club. Many of them were Poole customers (Tuxedo = Americanism). It was Edward VII’s inspired loosening style that eventually morphed into black tie, clinging on to some of the formality of tailcoats, such as the black tie shirt’s winged collar and the bow tie, which is also a descendant of Beau Brummell’s early 19th-century cravat.
How to wear a cummerbund
There actually is a right way and a wrong way to wear a cummerbund as they are meant to be worn with the pleats facing upwards at the natural waist. The natural waist is around the level of the navel, one half of the cummerbund should then cover the shirt, and the other half the trousers. Lastly a cummerbund should always be paired with a bow tie in a matching fabric.
If you are intrigued in the cummerbund and would like to design your own bespoke pieces for the modern age, The Winsor Tie Company can help. With our expansive knowledge and high quality materials we can provide the very best for your event or everyday wear. Contact us for advice we will ensure you and your team will make a statement in our bespoke accessories.