Lark Vintage in Frome is the kind of shop where you could easily lose days, it is like being transported, Alice style, to another world. Set high up on Catherine Hill it is a shrine to vintage, 1920s floor length dresses, embroidered blouses, cowboy boots, shiny leather brogues, crystal drop earrings, crocodile bags all artfully displayed by owner Hayley Noad.
The first thing you notice is that Lark feels much more like a boutique than many other vintage shops, partly because there is so much space - it's huge over two floors and many rooms - but also the way that space is utilised with everything in its place. The second thing to strike you is the pricing - there are so many beautiful pieces here and most of them are surprisingly affordable. So that immaculate black chiffon 20s dress hanging up behind the counter is £95 and much more drop-dead, I'd say, than an Erdem maxi at ten times the price. Lark reminds me of the second-hand shops of old, before vintage became achingly trendy and everyone put their prices up accordingly. The stock is hand-picked and in great condition but at prices where you can afford to shop regularly. It's the kind of place where you'd want to come and rummage for something to wear later on that night. Hayley has been collecting and selling for 20 years and almost everything comes from her vast list of private clients. She says: "If I buy things at a good price then I want to sell them on at a good price too so everyone is getting a bargain. " She knows her customers so well that she will call them up as soon as something comes in she thinks they will like and friends come into the shop when they have a specific event, like a wedding or party. The atmosphere in Lark, like most of the shops on Catherine Hill, is friendly and community-driven, with people dropping in for a quick chat and a snoop at the new stock which changes daily.
Lark sells the lovely vintage-inspired Molly and Isla range designed locally by Julie Brennan and made up by dressmakers in Frome. There are sweet floral dresses, bloomers and peter pan tops for girls (if Kate Middleton's next baby is a girl this range is made for her) and whimsical, floaty summer dresses for adults. Molly & Isla prices are good too - there's a very pretty Grace shift dress for £58 and a cute, fitted polka dot 'sweet pea' top for £40. High street pricing but without the sweat shop mentality. Very Frome.
Upstairs there are vintage lace bridal dresses, again in perfect condition. One exquisite 1920s dress has already passed through three brides, all known by Hayley. There are cream satin court shoes, tiaras, a 1950s veil. In another room you'll find dressing tables laden with silver hairbrushes and jewellery, the whole shop feels a bit like a Hollywood starlet's boudoir. Everywhere you look there are more things to fall for - silver cocktail shakers, nostalgic tins, boxes and breadbins and retro homeware from the 40s and 50s. It's a walk back through time and the perfect stop for present hunting. I always think of vintage shopping as browsing without purpose but at Lark the selection is so wide you could come here with something specific in mind - a silk blouse to wear with jeans, say, or a full blown party frock. You could come for pretty much anything and you'd find it, I even managed to pick up a pair of handmade, almost new chelsea boots for £45. Mostly, though, it's just a joy of place to while away some time and, like I said, you need plenty of it. Really, I'm talking days.