French church seeks designer dress for Virgin Mary

Wed Sep 24, 2008 12:35pm EDT
 
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TOULOUSE, France (Reuters) - French parishioners have turned to world-famous fashion designers in the hope of giving their church's centuries-old statue of the Virgin Mary a modern-day makeover.

The Notre-Dame de la Daurade basilica in the southwestern city of Toulouse has housed a black virgin statue since the fifth century, and the revered madonna's wardrobe of just four outfits is wearing thin.

"Our black virgin has always been dressed by benefactors from the city or the region. This time, we asked ourselves if the top global designers, most of them French, would agree to make a gesture for her," said Annie Dreuille, a member of the society for the preservation of the basilica.

Sonia Rykiel, Christian Lacroix, Jean-Charles de Castelbajac and Paco Rabane were among the French designers they had asked to dress the more than 2-meter (6-1/2-foot) tall statue, in addition to Italian brands Gucci, Prada and Valentino, she said.

"Maybe one or several of them will agree to give a dress as a present to our virgin and to Jesus, whom she is holding in her arms," she added. The churchgoers, who have not set any restrictions on the designs, are now awaiting replies.

(Reporting by Nicolas Fichot; writing by Francois Murphy, editing by Mark Trevelyan)