What's one of the easiest ways to show that a character doesn't have much money? Have their clothing, often grey or especially brown in color (though not always), worn out to the point where patches, often rags, needed to be sewn-on. The patches are usually placed on the sections of clothing that face the most friction, such as the elbow area for shirts and knee area for pants. The patches are almost always square in shape, but they don't need to be. Some examples take this Up to Eleven and have the clothes entirely be covered in patched rags.
Note that for this trope to apply, the character must be in poverty; if they're wearing patched-up clothes only because they like that style, that's Not an Example.
- In The Thief and the Cobbler, the cobbler Tack's clothes have many patches.
- Orphan Ann Marie from Don Bluth's All Dogs Go to Heaven is first seen clothed in scraps and rags, kept prisoner in The Villain's riverboat-turned-casino. Understandable since dogs are in charge of dressing her; Ann Marie gets much better clothes once the Wallet couple adopts her.
- In a version of The Prince and the Pauper starring Mickey Mouse, Pauper!Mickey wore this.
- In A Symposium on Popular Songs, Ludwig Von Drake describes how his clothes were in rags at the turn of the century. As he speaks, his tuxedo briefly changes into a tattered one with patches.
- Aladdin. The title character has a patch on his pants. The Genie points out this trope when he's turning him into Prince Ali. Provides the page quote.
- In Pinocchio, Jiminy starts dressed this way before the Blue Fairy declares him Pinocchio's conscience and gives him a clothing upgrade.
- In The Wheel of Time series, a cloak with many-colored patches is the signifying mark of a Gleeman, a profession of wandering minstrels and storytellers. Although Gleemen tend to be paid quite well for their performances, because they lead a necessarily nomadic lifestyle they tend to have few possessions nonetheless.
- The Belgariad. Belgarath the Sorcerer has an outfit that is more patches than not, as part of his vagabond image. Later in the series he admits he had it specially made, and it's lasted him a good five hundred years.
- Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban: While his clothes aren't patched, Lupin's introduction notes that his suitcase has been repeatedly repaired, as proof he can't afford a new one. (Two books later, we learn Umbridge made it near-impossible for werewolves to get jobs.)
- Blake's 7. For the first couple of episodes Villa wore patches. He was from the Delta Grades of his society, indicated to be of lesser social standing than other characters. Note though that his manner of dress also reflected his role of the "Fool" of the group.
- El Chavo del ocho use them, as he's suppose to be an orphan homeless child.
- Emmett Kelly created the "Weary Willie" character for the circus, modeled after alcoholic railroad hobos of the day. Willie's ragged, patchy outfit was meant to convey that these were the only clothes he's had for years.
- Some say that's what the Harlequin's costume used to be.
- Hasbro's Little Miss No Name doll from 1965 wore a ragged, patched brown dress.
- In The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, after the rich girl, Mila, ends up poor because of her father losing all his money, she is shown from then on wearing a patched-up and ugly dress.
- In Pokémon Sun and Moon, Trial Captain Acerola wears a dress that is almost entirely made of patches. Something that fits her status as an homeless child and also the fact that she is a Ghost-type Pokémon user.
- The very first page of Girl Genius has a group of barefoot kids in a poor part of Beetlesburg standing around in torn and patched clothes listening to the storyteller.
- There are a couple of orphan characters on The Simpsons like this who show up from time to time. One of them is even named Patches. One of them has the Incurable Cough of Death.
- In a flashback in the SpongeBob SquarePants episode, "Friend or Foe?", it is revealed that when Mr. Krabs was a kid, he and his Mom were going through some rough financial times, so Mama Krabs had to fashion Mr. Krabs' clothes from rags.
- Most residents of the orphanage in The Adventures of Puss in Boots have them on their clothing.