Air Force Instruction 36-9203, Dress and Personal Appearance of Air Force Personnel, mandates the wear of blue satin cummerbunds with the male and female Mess Dress uniforms worn by both enlisted personnel  and officers. (A silver satin cummerbund is worn with the female officer’s Formal Dress Uniform; male officers wear a vest in place of a cummerbund with their Formal Dress Uniforms.)

Air Force cummerbunds are worn with the pleats upward, a positioning that actually turns this piece of formal attire into a practical piece of clothing by making it a “crumb catcher,” a nickname still used for this accessory. They are worn “halfway between” the skirt and blouse (female) or shirt and trousers (male), i.e. the top half of the cummerbund should cover the blouse/shirt and the bottom half the skirt/trousers. To achieve the best effect, this means the skirt or trousers should be worn at navel level.

Often misspelled as “cumberbund,” cummerbunds originated in mid-19th century India with British army officers seeking an alternative to wearing vests under their jackets during formal dining occasions. They found their solution in a piece of Indian attire called a kamarband, a sash worn around the waist (kamar means waist); it provided sufficient waist covering while simultaneously providing relief from the often oppressive heat. After the tuxedo was introduced in England and the United States in the 1880s, waistcoats (vests) soon became part of the “Black Tie” dress code, and just as in India the cummerbund was adopted as a more comfortable alternative waist covering.

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