The kosode is considered the precursor to the modern kimono. Kosode were first worn as undergarments in the end of the Heian period (794–1185); by the late medieval and early modern eras in Japan (the 1500s through the 1800s) they had come to be used as outer garments.
This kosode is of a type classified as goshodoki (literally, "imperial palace motifs"). Worn particularly by samurai-class women from the late 1700s through the early to mid-1800s, goshodoki kosode typically have floral or landscape themes, amid which are placed select motifs alluding to specific literary sources, often scenes from Heian period classical literature or from a Noh play. Over time, however, the themes of these kimonos became more homogenous, and popular motifs were grouped together to create a literary aura without reference to a particular literary source. Also, instead of being covered with designs, many later goshodoki kosode had undecorated upper sections, perhaps bearing only family crests, with patterns around the lower sections.
This kosode was executed using techniques typically seen in goshodoki pieces: The white paste-resist patterns on the pearl grey background were embellished with couched gold-wrapped threads and silk embroidery in red-orange, light orange, purple, yellow, and green. Some of the white-patterned areas were further decorated in red applied with a stencil dying technique known as hitta shibori, which created the effect of miniature tie-dyed dots. Other patterns were enhanced with fine hand-drawn ink lines.
The motifs found in this kosode's design include banana plants (basho), a rope curtain, flowing water, pines, ivy, chrysanthemums, bamboo, and rocks. The predominance of the banana leaves may allude to the Noh play Basho. The fact that the designs cover the entire kosode suggests that this work dates to the early 1800s.