‘Wearable art’ store closes after 35 years


Joan “Lilly” Carney, owner of Lilly’s Wearable Art, will close her boutique at 110 N. Main St. in downtown Zionsville after 32 years to give back to the community and mentor aspiring designers and shop owners.

“I have been mentored by fashion icons and designers that were world famous, and I met people along the way that took me by surprise because they wanted to help me,” Carney said. “I want to be that mentor and help other people succeed.”

In 1992, Carney opened her first store, Lilly’s Boutique, in Zionsville. She found clothes for her boutique by traveling to different nations and selecting different multicultural pieces to sell at her store. The boutique sells items from Africa, Thailand, Scotland, Ireland and Germany, among other nations. Carney said her clothes are “wearable art.”

Photo of Joan Lilly Carney, Courtesy of Joan Lilly Carney. Pictured is Lilly’s Wearable Art’s artisan clothing designs. Photo courtesy of Joan Lilly Carney.

“I would travel abroad and meet artisans and bring clothes back to my store,” Carney said. “That gave those smaller designers a way to sell their clothing and make money. I have a passion for helping artisans.”

Carney met her first mentor in Finland in Annikki Karmine, one of Finland’s top designers.

“She was the first designer eager to help me,” Carney said. “She was No. 1 in Finland, and we got to go to her home.”

Carney was inspired throughout her career by Beverly Rice, who was an Indianapolis fashion icon; Mariana Zaharoff, who designed President Reagan’s daughter’s wedding dress; and Elena Pelaniva in Indianapolis.                                                                

“I was so blessed with all the people that came into my life and wanted to help me get where I am today,” she said. “It was all meant to be,”                      

Carney said she plans to start a scholarship at IUPUI to help young designers travel abroad, learn about cultural clothing designs and attend fashion school. She will also be at venues hosting fashion shows for nonprofits to help small artisans to grow businesses.