An atsuita is a small-sleeved (kosode 小袖) noh costume worn primarily as an under robe (kitsuke) for male roles, but can also serve as an outer robe for characters of older women. While some have simple checks, many are gorgeously decorated with strong geometric patterns brocaded in multicolored weft threads.
Roles and Draping
Old men in the first half of a noh wear atsuita woven with checks in a dense silk twill as a kitsuke under mizugoromo 水衣, either combined with ōkuchi 大口 (Takasago 『高砂』) or without (Tenko『天鼓』). Warrior courtiers don an atsuita under chōken 長絹 or happi 法被. Old women might drape an atsuita tucked up at the waist (tsuboori) as an outer robe over another kosode garment. An alternate costuming for energetic roles like the wraith of Taira no Tomomori in Funa Benkei 『船弁慶』or the fox god in Kokaji 『小鍛冶』is to dispense with an outer jacket and wear atsuita exposed on the torso, but tucked into the hangiri pleated trousers in a draping called mogidō.
Textile Features and Tailoring
The thick atsuita material is woven with a six-harness twill foundation. The geometric and other designs are rendered in different colored threads woven as supplementary patterning with glossed silk wefts. This patterning technique and the tailoring of the garment are similar to those for the karaori. Atsuita intended exclusively as under garments with only the upper portion partially exposed might be tailored to a three-quarter length.
Designs and Colors
Background patterns are often geometric, such as checks, linked hexagons, concentric diamonds, triangles, or bold zigzag lines. Motifs include Chinese imagery, such as temple gongs, shishi lions among peonies, and dragons in clouds.
Atsuita with design of wisteria rounds over linked hexagons. Edo period. Tokyo National Museum.