On Allison Rinaldi’s wedding day she didn’t have to think twice about what her ‘something old’ would be.
For even before her husband popped the question she knew when she said I do she would be wearing a wedding dress that had been in her family for 127 years.
Bought in 1884 for her great-great-grandmother’s wedding day, it has since been worn by her grandmother, aunt and mother too.
‘I always knew I wanted to wear the dress,’ 23-year-old Alison said.
‘I even tried it on when I was a little girl.
‘Not only did I think it was beautiful but I loved the sense of history which came along with it too and I am such a family kind of girl it meant a lot for me to carry on the tradition.
‘My mum and grandma would always talk about what an amazing wedding days they had had while wearing it, so I thought it would bring me luck if I did too.
‘And I was right as our wedding day was perfect and wearing the dress made it even more special.’
It was on June 11th this year when graphic designer Allison married graduate student Chris Rinaldi in St Louis, wearing the same dress as three generations of her women in her family had worn before her.
And there to prepare her as she squeezed into her historic dress was mum Mimi, 55, who had worn the very same dress 29 years before on the 5th June 1982.
Keep it in the family: Jean and John Shellito, who married in 1941 with Jean wearing the wedding dress that belonged to John’s grandmother, Nellie, who wore the dress in 1884 for her own wedding
But unlike Allison and Mimi, Nellie’s wedding was much smaller and held in the family home in Iowa.
Allison said: ‘It always surprised me to find out Nellie had chosen such a grand dress for a wedding at her home.
‘We don’t know much about the day apart from that it was on December 30th 1884 and no more than around 12 people attended.
‘But she really must have felt like a princess to have worn such a dress in her own front room.’
The dress then skipped a generation, until Jean Lawman married Nellie’s grandson, John Shellito in Iowa on December 26th 1941.
Jean was too frail to attend grand-daughter Allison’s wedding this year and sadly passed away two weeks after the ceremony, but Allison tells of Jean’s joy when she found out she was also going to wear the dress.
‘Grandma had a long life and passed away in her sleep when she was 91, just days after my wedding, ‘ she said.
‘And I know she wished she could have been strong enough to make it to the wedding as she was so excited to see the dress again.
Happy times: Allison’s aunt Barbara wore the dress on her wedding day too. ‘She loved seeing the dress in all its glory again, said Allison
‘Chris and I made sure we told her all about it though before she passed and she was over the moon to hear how it had also made me as happy as it had made her on grandma’s big day.
‘I asked her how she had come to wear it she told me before she died: ‘It was beautiful, it was offered and it fit!
‘She actually tried it on the night Pearl Harbour struck and then my granddad had to enlist, so they were married a few weeks later.
‘Like me they also got married in a church and then after had a small reception at a hotel. ‘
Next to wear the dress was Allison’s mum Mimi Balazs Shellito when she got married in 1982 to Jack, now 58.
Mimi said: ‘I loved the way the dress caught the light, it was just made of the most exquisite material I had ever seen.
‘And that’s why it lasted and I am glad to say it looked just as stunning on Allison as it had so many years before when I had worn it.
‘The dress just glowed and so did my daughter.’
Barbara Shellito of Boston also wore it, when she wed Jean’s son Paul on July 12th 1975 in Wichita, Kansas.
Allison said: ‘My Aunt Barbara was there on my wedding day and I know like my mum, it brought back so many happy memories of her wedding day when she married Uncle Paul.
‘She loved seeing the dress in all its glory again.’
Considering its age the dress is in pristine condition thanks to it being lovingly stored in linen sheets for the past 127 years.
So much so Allison tells how she made barely any alterations to the dress on her big day.
The only thing she had to do was go on a diet so she could fit in it.
he said: ‘The dress is just stunning and I would have loved it even if my mum and all my other relatives had not worn it.
‘To me its vintage look is so modern and it just has this sheen which glows.
‘And it is so different from all the usual strapless gowns girls today always seem to wear.
‘My mum had some patching done to it before her wedding, but apart from that it was in perfect shape, it was just so well made and so carefully looked after.
‘The only issue that at my age my mum was smaller than me so I knew it was going to be a tight fit to get in it.
‘But before my wedding I dieted like mad and thankfully it fit me like a glove.
‘The only thing I did differently was that I wore a bustle under mine.’
Allison could not have been happier with the results and neither could her doting new husband.
‘Chris was a bit jealous that everyone had seen the dress before him, but he understood how important it was to me, ‘ tells Allison.
‘And when I saw the look on his face as I walked down the aisle I knew I had made the right decision.
‘He loved it and thought it was beautiful.
‘He was so nervous though it took him a little while to register what I was even wearing, but once he did he absolutely loved it.
‘It was a magical day.’
Allison hopes if she has a little girl the tradition will continue and to ensure the dress continues to stay in immaculate condition she changed into a different dress for her reception.
‘I would love nothing more than if I have a daughter she will want to wear the dress, ‘ said Allison.
‘It’s just got such sentimental value now for all of us.
‘With that in mind I wanted to make sure I did not spill anything on it or tear it at the reception.
‘And so I changed into a short 1960s cocktail dress.
‘Amazingly after all these years nobody had split or torn the dress and I certainly did not want to be the first.
‘Thankfully I managed to not get a single mark on it and now it is back wrapped in the linen cloth and in storage, safely put away until the next girl in our family hopefully wants to wear it.’
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