The classical tailoring of the current robe with its narrow and layered sleeves and wide borders, as well as the decoration, are typical of the fashions worn by Manchu noblewomen associated with the court of the Dowager Empress Cixi. The decoration of this striking robe is replete with auspicious meaning. The informal dark grey gauze silk is couched with a silver ground of running wan-character fret intermittently embroidered with lotus flowers and cranes on the borders. The cranes stand for symbol of longevity, together with wan-characters reinforces the idea of long life. The Lotus was one of Cixi's favourite flowers. In Buddhism, it signifies purity as well as love and compassion. It is also the flower of Avalokitesvara, the Bodhisattva of Compassion.
Compare to a robe similar in style but with orchid design, dated to the Guangxu (1875-1908) period in the Beijing Palace Museum, illustrated in The Forbidden City : Court Culture of the Chinese Emperors (1644-1911), page 203, pl. 52 and one published in The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum : Costumes and Accessories of the Qing Court, Beijing, 2005, page 204, plate. 127. Another similar robe with peony and butterfly design is in the Minneapolis Institute of Art, illustrated in Imperial Silks, Ch'ing Dynasty Textiles in The Minneapolis Institute of Art, Minneapolis, 2000, p. 493. A robe of the same period and style with butterflies and flowers was sold at Christie's New York, The Imperial Wardrobe: Fine Chinese Costume and Textiles from the Linda Wrigglesworth Collection, 19 March 2008, lot 93.