Local Shop Owner Lays Claim to the Only Wearable Art Boutique in the Midwest
Writer / Shelly Sack
Photographer / Jon Ellegood
Shoppers who pop into Lilly’s Wearable Art in Zionsville won’t find clothing that can be found across the malls of America. Instead, they’ll be treated to a visual collection of unique clothing that displays the curated design aesthetic behind the business.
The women’s clothing boutique had moved to various locations in the village since opening in 1992 on Pine Street, to accommodate its growing collection. While the storefront closed a few years ago, Owner Joan “Lilly” Carney said being housebound during the 2020 shutdown had her itching to get back to the bricks in Zionsville.
Lilly’s reopened at its new location on May 1, with a mailing list of 10,000 names, and Carney has been enjoying brisk business.
“I wasn’t busy enough and I have lots of energy,” Carney says. “I think a lot of people still don’t know we’re here, but we’re the only wearable art store in the Midwest.”
Her eye has always been trained for fashion, since she would design and sew clothing as a fourth-grader growing up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
“My mother was very frugal, and my sister and I were different sizes and our styles differed,” Carney says. “I would take my babysitting money and go to Marshall Field’s to the designer bins of leftover end-runs and buy the remnants I wanted.”
Her background in critiquing art and design grew as she was a model in her high school and college years, wearing fashions as a representative for Boston Store and Marshall Field’s with the latest designs. She double-majored in art history and education at Marymount College, which helped train her eye for design.
When it came to opening Lilly’s Wearable Art, Carney knew what she wanted.
“The store itself can be described as a jewel of wearable art,” Carney says.
Her women’s boutique, packed with clothes and accessories, can be described as fun, interesting and colorful. Grouped by colors, the clothing, sized XS to 2X, is both interesting and timeless, and Carney emphasizes that it is wearable art designed to be worn and shared.
Lilly’s has jeans with embellishments, cutouts and embroideries, alongside reversible jackets that are hand painted and jeweled on top of the fabrics. There are many other unique pieces available to grab customers’ attention.
In early fall she secured another new artist to showcase 30 pieces, and recently had Kimono Designs pieces by Theresa Gallup and pieces from Lee Andersen, both established American designers.
“I have a passion to help artisans,” Carney says. “They have God-given talents that often don’t pay as lucrative as other career paths. They rely on their own sales skills, and they often don’t have them.”
Her passion has brought her around the world to scout new artists. She made a point to use her credit card to accrue airline points that have led her to 22 different regions including Croatia, China, Nepal, Italy, Vietnam, Bali and Germany. She kept her home base in the village, before her move to Carmel, calling Zionsville “a fun little town.”
“It’s charming and the people are friendly,” Carney says. “Business is now picking up and people want something fun to wear. People are tired of being in sweatpants. I get stopped by people in the store that say, ‘It’s so nice to see somebody dressed up.’ You feel your best when you’re put together.”
Lilly’s Wearable Art is located at 110 North Main Street in Zionsville. For questions about upcoming trunk shows or in-store inventory, call 317-973-5000.