A cumberbund, or cummerbund, is a wide waist sash worn by men in place of a vest or waistcoat. This type of sash is primarily worn with formal attire, such as a dinner jacket or tuxedo. Cumberbunds are frequently made with silk or brocade fabric, and come in a wide range of colors, though black is the predominant color. One side of the garment is often pleated, while the other side is plain.
British military officers in colonial India are responsible for the creation of the first cumberbunds. These gentlemen found the climate in India to be too hot to wear a waistcoat, so they substituted the waist sash instead. This sash allowed the officers to retain a trim, neat appearance without feeling weighted down by a vest. The cumberbund's origins in colonial India are evidenced by its name — cummerbund is an English language interpretation of the Urdu word "kamarband," meaning "waist restraint" or "loin band."
The cumberbund evolved gradually into a necessary component of the black-tie dress code. In this guise, it was worn at formal occasions by civilians and military men alike. The standard color for the garment became black, to match the tuxedo. Navy blue cumberbunds were also not uncommon, and an 1893 article in a London newspaper stated that the garment should be "crimson" in color.
Historically, gentlemen wore their cumberbunds with the pleated side facing up. The pleats of the cumberbund substituted for the pockets usually found in a waistcoat. A man could store theater tickets or other small personal items inside the folds of the sash.
The proper way to wear the garment in modern times is with the pleats facing up or down, according to the wearer's preference. A cumberbund still serves as an alternative to a vest and is usually worn with a single-breasted tuxedo jacket and trousers. Men may wish to wear a bow tie or neck tie with a tuxedo, as well. In this case, the color of the tie typically should match the color of the cumberbund. At weddings, it is not uncommon for the groom and his groomsmen to wear cumberbunds that match the dresses of the bridal party.
Contemporary cumberbunds are usually elasticized, with buckles at the back for fastening. This makes it easy to adjust the fit of the sash around the waist. When wearing a cumberbund, most men choose to wear suspenders to hold their trousers up, rather than a belt.