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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.

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.

Story: Here comes the bride... and she’s dozens of pounds lighter

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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