The cummerbund is commonly misspelled cumberbund or cumerbund.
Thanks to the practice of prom dates and young grooms being dressed by their female companions, the role of the formal waistcoat or cummerbund is misconstrued by many today as a palette for matching women's dress colors. In actual fact these garments play an important part in formal wear's refined minimalism by helping to conceal its working parts. Just as dress studs replace common shirt buttons and silk stripes cover trouser seams, a formal waist covering discreetly hides the trouser's exposed waistband and the shirt bosom's bottom edge.
Cummerbunds have had a lot of presence world wide within the military. Both the Pakistani and French military have made cummerbunds a part of their military uniform.
Today in men’s black tie dress, the cummerbund may be worn either pleat up or down, since it’s merely a dressy accessory instead of a purposeful garment.
The pleats face up because they were originally used to hold ticket stubs and similar items, explaining the slang name 'crumb-catcher'. The contemporary use of the cummerbund is purely aesthetic, providing a transition between the shirt and the waistband.
In the 1920s it was adapted into its modern incarnation with pleats replacing the folds of the sash. Although it covered the trouser waist as effectively as the waistcoat, its comparative simplicity designated it as a less formal alternative best suited to a shawl collar jacket and a soft-front shirt. Although this dressy sash was initially appropriate only for warm-weather evenings, it has been acceptable year-round since the fifties.
Once it was adopted as civilian dress, beginning as a largely summer option with informal dinner jackets, such as Burmese fawn and white, it was restricted to the narrow range of colours which accompany black tie. These were predominantly black, sometimes midnight blue to match the trousers, and occasionally maroon (the normal hue for coloured accessories). Note that the bow tie itself always matched the trousers and was never maroon or otherwise coloured.
In India, the cummerbund was a bright and flamboyant accessory that was intended to jazz up the wearer's ensemble. As British military personnel began flooding the continent and holding lavish black-tie affairs, the tropical heat precluded the use of dinner jackets or tuxedo vests. To maintain a formal appearance, military officers began adopting the cummerbund for their own use.
Cummerbunds have their origins in India. Before the British military adopted them, they were called "kamarbands." The meaning behind the word "kamarband" is easy enough - "kamar" means "waist," and "band" means, well, "band."
The sash was formerly worn in the Indian subcontinent by domestic workers and low-status office workers.