Willowbrook resident shares love of ‘50s with Vial House display
Gay Fierke stands among the mannequins wearing some of her vintage clothing on display at the Vial House in Burr Ridge. | Dan Luedert~Sun-Times Media
NAME: Gay Fierke
BEST KNOWN AS: Vial House volunteer and collector of all things 1950s
HOME TOWN: Willowbrook
Updated: September 17, 2012 6:10AM
BURR RIDGE — For most of the year, Gay Fierke lives out her days as a regular member of 21st century society. But for one weekend each September, she allows herself the luxury of returning to the 1950s.
Fierke fell in love with the long-gone decade 12 years ago, when she and her husband attended the Lead East Car Show in New Jersey.
“It is billed as the biggest 1950s party in the United States,” she said.
For that weekend, it’s all ‘50s, from the red and white Cadillac they drive cross-country to the show, right down to the vintage clothing they wear all weekend.
“I don’t bring any modern clothes at all,” said Fierke, a volunteer at the historic Vial House in Burr Ridge.
It was during that car show weekend 12 years ago that Fierke started what has grown to be an extensive collection of vintage 1950s fashions. A part of that collection is now on display at the Vial House, 7425 S. Wolf Road in Burr Ridge.
The public is invited to see Fierke’s collection of ‘50s-style formals, petal pushers and winter wraps from 10 a.m.-12:30 p.m. each Thursday and from 2-4 p.m. the first Sunday of each month through Oct. 7.
“Some of the stuff is really timeless,” she said. In fact, Fierke can be seen most winter days wrapped in a vintage winter coat.
“It’s a silhouette that is so feminine,” she said. Born in 1954, she missed her first chance to wear the tiny-waisted skirts and jewel-necked collars. But she takes every opportunity to enjoy them now.
Volunteer Alice Latham spends most Thursday mornings at the Vial House. She said guests enjoy reminiscing about the clothing from more than 60 years ago.
“A lot of people are coming in,” said Latham, who added a few of her own items from the 1950s to the collection.
Latham said the ruffled, sparkling prom dresses don’t catch the most attention. Most admirers, she said, are interested in the casual clothes. A pair of printed high-waisted shorts and peasant top is a favorite.
Wherever Fierke travels, she always seeks out the local vintage store for additions to her collection, which includes shoes and jewelry as well as clothing.
Fierke has even decorated a room in her Willowbrook home with all things vintage.
“I have an authentic chenille bedspread,” Fierke said.
Some of Fierke’s most prized possessions weren’t found in a vintage shop, but donated by people who know about her love of ‘50s fashion. It is not uncommon for friends and acquaintances to offer additions of vintage accessories.
“It’s great how I have come across some of my ‘50s things,” she said.