12/11/2011 08:17 am ET Updated Dec 12, 2011

'Fashion Icon': The Virgin Mary's 700-Year-Old Wardrobe On Display At Exhibition In France (PHOTOS)

"Fashion Icon," an exhibit on display at Lyon's Fabric Museum (Musée des Tissus) features elaborate dresses made for the Virgin Mary and baby Jesus from the 12th to the 19th century. The exhibit explores how clothes, full of intricate religious symbolism, were designed to adorn their statues, sometimes even becoming objects of adoration themselves.

For hundreds of years, rare and expensive fabrics were used to clothe the Virgin Mary, and on special occasions, men and women would commission tailors to cut dresses for the Virgin Mary from their own precious or memorable clothes. It was a fairly common practice for brides to donate their wedding dresses to make dresses for the Virgin Mary. In a quote reported by the AFP, Maximilien Durand, director of the Lyon fabric museum said, "They [Virgin Mary statues] were dressed like real women, like fashion icons, with real hair, wigs, even make-up."

While the Virgin Mary is popularly depicted in robes of blue, white and red, symbolic of heavenly grace, purity and humility, the exhibit also features dresses in vibrant hues of green and purple, worn in accordance with the Catholic liturgical calendar. The exhibit, that will run till March 25, also features dresses designed by haute couture French designers Jean-Charles de Castelbajac and Franck Sorbier.



Please click through the slideshow to see striking imagery from the exhibition:

The Virgin Mary as Fashion Icon