Nō theater costume (nuihaku)
Japanese Japan, Edo (Japanese period), Nō theater costume (nuihaku), 1750-1800, Silk, gold leaf; plain weave, hand-painting, embroidery; Center back: 162.6 cm (64 inches), Gift of Miss Lucy T. Aldrich 35.470
No is a ritual drama historically performed for important ceremonies. Because men traditionally play both male and female roles wearing masks, the symbolic importance of costume in No theater is vital to its understanding and dramatic effect. During the Edo Period, No theater was patronized by the regional feudal lords, who spent great sums on costumes, as they and their warriors (samurai) were unaffected by the sumptuary laws that bound other classes. This robe is an example of a No theater costume type (nuihaku) that is defined by the size and shape of the sleeve and decoration techniques. A nuihaku always bears both embroidery and metallic-leaf stenciling as decoration. The short, boxlike sleeves classify the robe as a kosode garment, the principal outer dress for all classes of Japanese society since the sixteenth century.