Feb. 13, 2014

Textile expert Charlotte Jirousek dies at 75

Charlotte Jirousek

Charlotte Jirousek, associate professor of textiles and apparel in the College of Human Ecology at Cornell, died unexpectedly Feb. 12 in Ithaca at age 75.

Jirousek was a textile expert with a special interest in the textiles and dress of Turkey. She was also the curator of the Cornell Costume and Textile Collection, which has more than 9,000 items of apparel dating back to the 18th century, as well as a substantial collection of ethnographic textiles and costume. She curated some 30 exhibitions over the years, ranging from “Textiles of the Andes and Color!” to “Street Fashion and Youth Culture.”

“As a teacher she inspired countless students, and as director of undergraduate studies, she was a mentor to all of the department’s undergraduate students,” said Alan Mathios, the Rebecca Q. and James C. Morgan Dean of the College of Human Ecology. “Her passion for teaching led her to innovate in her field. She adapted computer-aided teaching approaches that are the foundation of the success of the CAD labs now widely used in the field. As curator of the Cornell Costume and Textile Collection, her expertise in textiles and art history revealed the contents archived there as a treasure appreciated by students and the public. Most importantly, Charlotte was a good friend to us all, and someone whose passion to do great things in a truly multidisciplinary way is an example for the rest of us. We will miss her terribly.”

Jirousek, who was born Aug. 20, 1938, in Faribault, Minn., earned a B.A. in sociology from Hamline University (1960), an M.A. in applied design (1982) and a Ph.D. in design, housing and apparel (1988), both at the University of Minnesota. She was an assistant professor and curator at the University of Alabama (1988-92) before joining the Cornell faculty in 1992.

Jirousek’s interest in Turkey stems from “the enormous importance this region has had in the development of Euro-American design, commerce and culture, and how little most people in this country seem to know about it,” she once wrote.

Her research centered on the historic interaction of East and West as expressed in textiles and dress, and on the disappearing textile traditions of Turkey due to industrialization.

Jirousek taught courses in design foundations and the cultural and historical aspects of textile and apparel design. She developed an open-access, comprehensive, interactive textbook to support the course Art Design and Visual Thinking, which introduces basic design concepts and the idea of visual language.

Most recently, Jirousek had started a five-year term in 2013 as editor of DRESS, the Journal of the Costume Society of America, and was part of a Cornell student/faculty service learning field trip in January to Ecuador to support income-generation projects among indigenous populations.

Jirousek is survived by two adult daughters and other extended family members. A memorial service will be held at 3 p.m., Feb. 22, at the First Unitarian Society of Ithaca with a reception to follow. 

Faculty and staff are welcome to join a community support meeting in MVR 153 at 9:30 a.m. Feb. 14. A crisis line is available at 272-1616. For additional resources, all Cornell faculty and staff can also visit the Caring Community site.