Ray Charles’ Blue Silk Stage Suit

Jamie Foxx as Ray Charles in Ray (2004)

Jamie Foxx as Ray Charles in Ray (2004)

Vitals

Jamie Foxx as Ray Charles, groundbreaking R&B musician

Indianapolis, Fall 1961

Film: Ray
Release Date: October 29, 2004
Director: Taylor Hackford
Costume Designer: Sharen Davis

Background

On a suggestion from a great reader of this blog, I revisited Jamie Foxx’s Academy Award-winning performance as Ray Charles in 2004’s Ray and noticed the abundance of excellent period costumes that Foxx wears as the titular virtuoso.

In addition to Foxx’s Oscar for acting, the 2005 Academy Awards also gave a well-deserved nod to costume designer Sharen Davis, who beautifully recreated the era through Ray’s natty attire both on and off the stage. One outfit that particularly stood out was the black satin-trimmed stage suit in blue flecked silk that Ray wears during a couple of early 1960s gigs across the Midwest.

The outfit is showcased during the opening credits, set against Charles’ improvised 1959 hit single “What’d I Say?”

What’d He Wear?

Likely inspired by something worn by the real Ray Charles, the costume was nicely brought to life on screen from the initial sketches, which can be found here.

The styling details of Ray’s blue silk suit would technically place it in the realm of a dinner suit or tuxedo, but the flashy suiting makes it far more appropriate for a vibrant stage performance. In addition to the black satin silk piping, Ray’s blue silk suiting has a subtle fleck that suggests shantung silk.

Ray belts out "Unchain My Heart" for adoring fans in Indianapolis.

Ray belts out “Unchain My Heart” for adoring fans in Indianapolis.

The blue stage jacket is single-breasted with a single-button closure that is covered in the same black satin silk as the piping on the shawl collar, cuffs, and pockets. The breast pocket and hip pockets are all welted with a strip of black satin piping across the straight top openings, and the breast pocket is further accented with a black silk display kerchief.

The cuffs have no buttons but have a strip of black satin piping – the same width as the lapel piping – a few inches up the sleeve. The sleeveheads are roped and the shoulders are padded. The long double vents allow Ray to sit at the piano more comfortably while still wearing his jacket buttoned.

Different vibes after and before the show.

Different vibes after and before the show.

Very little is seen of Ray’s stage suit trousers, but they appear to have flat fronts and plain-hemmed bottoms that break high over his shoes. Interestingly, they do not have the black satin side striping that would follow the “creative black tie” approach to this stage suit and also continue the stylistic themes of the jacket.

Ray brings the house down.

Ray brings the house down.

As his ensemble is essentially a dinner suit, Ray appropriately wears a white formal tuxedo shirt with narrow pleats on the front.

Ray wisely keeps his shirt buttoned up for his stage appearance, but his casual post-show look reveals his white sleeveless undershirt.

Ray wisely keeps his shirt buttoned up for his stage appearance, but his casual post-show look reveals his white sleeveless undershirt.

Ray wears a set of round black cuff links with gold edge trim that nicely match the shirt studs.

Ray pounds the keys of his black Baldwin piano during a 1962 gig in St. Louis.

Ray pounds the keys of his black Baldwin piano during a 1962 gig in St. Louis.

Ray Charles was famous for fining his band mates $50 if they showed up without a bow tie, but Ray also often sported a “Continental tie”, a much less frequently seen type of neckwear that resembled a silk strip that crosses over the throat and is fastened under the collar with a single stud. The effect is similar to an untied batwing-shaped bow tie worn wrapped under the collar. This particular and peculiar neckwear recalls pioneering jazz musicians of the post-Edwardian era, such as the Original Dixieland Jass Band.

In these scenes, Ray’s Continental tie is black silk with a gold-trimmed round pearl stud.

The opening credits provide some great close-ups of Ray's blue stage suit, including his distinctive tie...

The opening credits provide some great close-ups of Ray’s blue stage suit, including his distinctive tie…

Thank you to blog reader Wolf, who was able to identify this type of neckwear as a “Continental tie” with a link to the always-helpful Black Tie Guide resource.

Ray’s footwear is much more common than his neckwear, as he wears a pair of black leather oxfords with five eyelets and no back quarters. His ribbed socks are also black.

Ray's footwear also gets some attention during the opening credits. You couldn't ask for a better shot of his oxfords... except maybe without the "Baldwin Entertainment" credit getting in the way.

Ray’s footwear also gets some attention during the opening credits. You couldn’t ask for a better shot of his oxfords… except maybe without the “Baldwin Entertainment” credit getting in the way.

Sunglasses are an essential part of Ray Charles’ image. The tortoise-framed sunglasses worn by Jamie Foxx as Ray were auctioned by Nate D. Sanders as part of the “Entertainment, Sports, and Presidential Auction” in April 2014 with a starting price of $1,250. The lot describes these particular sunglasses as: “Tortoiseshell color glasses by Beausoleil feature print on the inside left temple. Hand made in France. Measures 5.5″ across and 4.5″ from the lenses to the bend of the earpiece.”

The distinctive Beausoleil triple dots can be clearly seen on the temples of Ray's sunglasses as he plays in Indianapolis.

The distinctive Beausoleil triple dots can be clearly seen on the temples of Ray’s sunglasses as he plays in Indianapolis.

Ray’s wristwatch with this outfit is only briefly glimpsed on his right wrist, but it appears to not be the same steel Raketa with a flip cover and brown leather strap that he wore during a few earlier sequences set during the 1950s. Instead, Ray’s stage watch appears to be a more traditional yellow gold dress watch with a light-colored dial.

Ray's watch is seen in the opening credits, reflected in the lenses of his sunglasses.

Ray’s watch is seen in the opening credits, reflected in the lenses of his sunglasses.

How to Get the Look

rayblue-crop“The inimitable Ray Charles, clad in immaculate electric-blue suits and wrap around glasses, embodied the most rakish qualities; a life of sex, drugs, rock ‘n’ soul. His strength and sophistication were born from unconventional beginnings,” wrote Dolores Carbonari for The Rake in July 2016.

  • Blue shantung silk stage suit, consisting of:
    • Single-breasted 1-button jacket with black satin-piped shawl lapels, black satin-welted breast pocket, black satin-welted straight hip pockets, black satin-piped cuffs, and double back vents
    • Flat front trousers with plain-hemmed bottoms
  • White cotton formal shirt with spread collar, narrow-pleated front, front placket, and double/French cuffs
    • Black gold-trimmed round studs
    • Black gold-trimmed round cuff links
  • Black satin silk Continental tie
    • Pearl gold-trimmed round stud
  • Black leather cap-toe 5-eyelet oxfords/balmorals
  • Black ribbed socks
  • White ribbed cotton sleeveless undershirt/A-shirt
  • Beausoleil tortoiseshell sunglasses
  • Yellow gold wristwatch with light dial

Do Yourself a Favor and…

Buy the movie and pick up a few of Ray’s albums to familiarize yourself with “The Genius”.

The Lyric

♫ Why lead me through a life of misery
When you don’t care a bag of beans for me ♫

4 comments

  1. Ryan Hall

    A bold blue dinner suit is very much in fashion. Nick my wedding suit you once covered on your blog was french navy, which is still dark blue, But a much warmer and softer look then the traditional midnight blue. As long as you stick to a fairly dark shade of blue I believe your not breaking too many traditions. But I will probably get a black or midnight blue dinner suit soon, it is something every man needs in his wardrobe. Also I loved the film Ray and Ray Charles is awesome, What I’d Say is a pure classic.

    Like

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