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Video: 127 years, 5 weddings, 1 dress: Priceless

  1. Transcript of: 127 years, 5 weddings, 1 dress: Priceless

    SAVANNAH GUTHRIE, co-host: Well unlike most girls who dream about what their wedding gown might look like, Allison Shellito Rinaldi didn't have to think twice . When she walked down the aisle in June, Allison was wearing a gown that was first worn back in 1884 . And over the last 127 years it's been worn by four other women in her family. Allison is here along with her mom, Mimi , her aunt Barbara and this beautiful gown. Ladies, good morning.

    Ms. ALLISON SHELLITO RINALDI (Wore Wedding Dress in 2011): Good morning.

    Ms. MIMI SHELLITO: Good morning.

    Ms. BARBARA SHELLITO: Good morning.

    GUTHRIE: Well, let's go through the history first. This wedding dress was first worn by, Allison , your great-great-grandmother, Nellie Campbell , when she married A.G. Shellito back in 1884 in Iowa . We don't have a wedding picture there, but we do have a portrait so we know what she looked like. The dress then skipped a generation until Jean Lawman , Allison , your grandma, married Nellie 's grandson, John Shellito , 1941 . Then Barbara , you married Jean 's son in 1975 . You wore the dress yourself. Then Mimi picked it up, wore it in 1982 when you married Jean 's other son and then Allison I know in June 2011 you wore this gown as well. Mimi , you're the keeper of this dress. I think most people's first question

    is: How do you keep it looking so good?

    Ms. M. SHELLITO: Well, I'm very fortunate to receive it from my mother-in-law in really close to perfect condition. And it has only really -- it was never worn as clothing outside of wedding clothing. So, yeah, it's in linen in a closet wrapped up.

    GUTHRIE: It -- kept in linen sheets.

    Ms. M. SHELLITO: Mm-hmm. Yeah.

    GUTHRIE: And, Barbara ...

    Ms. B. SHELLITO: Yeah.

    GUTHRIE: ...what does it mean that so many women across these generations have worn this gown?

    Ms. B. SHELLITO: Well, I think the marriage is more important to me than the wedding , but when I wore this on my wedding day it meant a lot to me to be connected with those marriages that went before. And it was from the side of the daughter-in-law that I felt especially honored to wear it.

    GUTHRIE: And, Allison , when it came time for you to get married did you ever question whether you would wear this gown? I mean, you're a modern woman. There are lots of pretty wedding gowns out there. Did you ever think, 'Well, maybe I want to pick my own'?

    Ms. RINALDI: Well, I always kind of wanted to wear it because it's a big family tradition for us, and I wanted to be part of the legacy. So I was excited. I always was.

    GUTHRIE: And I know you switched for the reception, which I think we can all related to the fear of spilling...

    Ms. RINALDI: Yeah, yeah.

    GUTHRIE: ...something on it.

    Ms. RINALDI: Absolutely.

    GUTHRIE: Yeah. This mus have been something that -- for you, Mimi , to have -- put this dress on Allison at that moment on her wedding day.

    Ms. M. SHELLITO: It was fun.

    GUTHRIE: Yeah.

    Ms. M. SHELLITO: My friend helped me. It was a lot of fun to do that together.

    GUTHRIE: And I know your grandmother, Jean , who also wore this gown, she was in very poor health at the time and didn't get to be at the wedding , but she did have portraits with you. So she got to see you in the dress.

    Ms. RINALDI: She did, she did. And we actually saw her right after the wedding , we told her about it. She was just ecstatic, so.

    GUTHRIE: It's wonderful .

    Ms. RINALDI: Yeah.

    GUTHRIE: It's a great story. And I know every woman who wore that dress had a long and happy marriage. So, Allison , the best to you as well.

    Ms. RINALDI: Thank you.

By
TODAY contributor
updated 8/19/2011 9:41:57 AM ET 2011-08-19T13:41:57

When Allison Rinaldi got married two months ago, she didn’t need to think twice about her "something old." Since she was a little girl, she knew she’d be in the same dress that her great-great grandmother, grandmother, mother and aunt wore down the aisle. She even tried it on when she was 15 and thought, 'someday I'll wear it.'"

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"Someday" came on June 11 in St. Louis, when Allison wed Chris Rinaldi, a Louisiana native and a graduate student at Stanford University. The two met as undergrads at Washington University in St. Louis.

"I always wanted to wear it," the 23-year-old graphic artist said in an interview this morning on TODAY. "It’s a big family tradition for us and I wanted to be part of the legacy.”

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The legacy began in 1884 when Allison’s paternal great-grandmother, Nellie, married A.G. Shellito in 1884 in Iowa. The dress then skipped a generation, until Allison’s grandmother, Jean, married John Shellito in 1941. Allison’s Aunt Barbara wore it next, some 34 years later.

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The last woman to wear the dress before Allison was her mother, Mimi, when she married Allison’s father, Jack Shellito, in 1982.

Made of tone-on-tone ecru silk brocade and patterned with chrysanthemum flowers, the gown has been meticulously preserved in linen sheets and stored in a closet. The dress made a rare non-wedding appearance this morning when the three women brought it to the TODAY studios.

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“I was very fortunate to receive it from my mother-in-law in close-to-perfect condition,” said Mimi.

The dress has weathered so well that Allison barely made any alterations. The only thing she had to do was go on a diet so she could fit into it.

“It's definitely not a size six which is what I am,” she said. “I had to diet, exercise and work with a trainer. But, the truth is I would've gone on a ‘wedding diet’ anyway. So many women do.”

To ensure that dress remained in perfect condition, Allison changed into a 1960s cocktail dress for her reception.

All of the women agree that the garment's true beauty lies in its history.

“When I wore this on my wedding day it meant a lot to me to be connected with those marriages that went before,” Barbara told TODAY.

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