Crazy Clothing Worldwide

Just as with bedcovers, Crazy-style clothing has appeared in countries and cultures all over the world. Frugality has been a driving force in some of these traditions, as have spiritual beliefs and aesthetic preferences. All of these garment types, whatever their origin, can range from a mildly disordered patchwork presentation to one that strays well into “crazy” territory.

In Asian countries, patchwork can be associated with ascetic religious practices, in other words, pursuing a life free from the temptations of the material world. In India, some Hindu holy men (sadhu), wear patched clothing to indicate their dedication to a life of poverty. In India, China and Japan, Buddhist priests traditionally wear patchwork kasaya (Sanskrit), jia sha (Chinese) or kesa (Japanese) robes to emulate the Buddha, who was said to wear patched clothing as a sign of his detachment from material wealth. In China, home of the Ming Dynasty-era fashion for irregularly pieced “paddy field” garments (shuitian yi), patchwork also had amuletic, or spiritually protective, properties. One clothing item, the baijia yi (hundred families robe), protected its child wearer from evil spirits via the dozens of donated, multi-colored fabrics used in its creation, as well as the auspicious embroidery applied to it. In Western and Central Asia, dervishes, members of a Sufi Muslim sect dedicated to religious poverty, often wore patched robes, which communicated their humble and pious nature.

The rural Japanese practice of boro patchwork--used not only on bedcovers but on clothing as well--is based in extreme frugality and sometimes sheer poverty. But wealthy Japanese also used patchwork, especially in making jubon (under-kimono), to express their appreciation for textiles’ inherent value, especially the finely woven and embellished silks they were able to afford.