Dear Mishka – What Perfumes Would the Bennet Sisters Wear?

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Photo by Olivia Gündüz-Willemin.

Photo by Olivia Gündüz-Willemin.

I just wanted to say I absolutely love the new perfume column, especially the literary character inspired choices. I could I ask, what would scents would Elizabeth Bennett and Jane Bennett wear? Though, honestly I'd be intrigued about any and all of the Bennett sisters' scent recommendations! 
Kind regards,

Hello Hannah, and thank you so much for your message! I’ve been giving some thought to this, and after testing a number of the perfumes that first sprang to mind for Elizabeth and Jane, there are a couple that have particularly stood out. 

I think any perfume for Elizabeth would need a bit of green sharpness to it, something to add a little sparkle and energy, before unfolding to a fresh, but tender heart. With this in mind, I’d definitely suggest something like Goutal’s Eau d'Hadrien: it’s my current go-to for mornings when I need to get work done, thanks to its fresh elegance that manages to be both energizing and clear-eyed. If you want the lovely opening of the 2005 film score in perfume form, I can think of nothing more apt. It’s full of citrus-y sparkle in its opening, thanks to a combination of lemon, grapefruit, mandarin, and aldehydes, giving it a bracing, light-filled spring in its step. Lizzie’s independent and adventurous spirit is perfectly suited to the cypress note that anchors it, too, and her tenderness and heart are wonderfully evoked by the unexpected softness of ylang-ylang. I will say that this falls more on the eau de cologne side of perfume in terms of longevity, unfortunately, but it’s a radiant, witty, invigorating repartee while it lasts. I would absolutely suggest you use it to scent a favorite scarf, so that it unfurls in the breeze when next you’re traipsing across the fields.

For Jane, what immediately springs to mind is Dior’s exquisite Diorissimo. Nothing says feminine, chaste, and delicately beautiful like lily-of-the-valley (I always say it’s the smell of the woman my family always wanted me to be and that I decidedly Am Not). I can think of nothing better for Jane’s genuine, kind-hearted, compassionate character. It’s a dew-fresh bouquet of lily-of-the-valley, jasmine, green leaves, and amaryllis. Composed by the incomparable master Edmond Roudnitska, it’s an almost chivalric portrait of an ideal romantic heroine: radiant, beautiful, virtuous, kind. It is full of freshness and clarity, yielding sweetness and abiding elegance. I think of the edge of a meadow, early on a spring morning, the grass still wet with dew, the pale little bells of flowers trembling in the morning air. There’s just enough poignancy to its beauty to make it intriguing, and more than enough of the flower’s natural clarity, sweetness, and light to make it an enchanting ode to hope, joy, and romance. If I ever received a letter scented with this, I’d probably spend the rest of my life harboring a courtly, reverent adoration for the sender (that of course I would rather go to the grave with than ever declare).

As for the other Bennet sisters, I can absolutely see Lydia wearing something like YSL’s Black Opium because it, like her, put me in mind of one of those irritating high schoolers who’ve snuck into a club and are busy spilling a sugary cocktail on someone while taking a selfie. For Kitty, my knee-jerk reaction is to suggest Chanel’s Gabrielle (ill-considered, forgettable) — is that too mean? Probably. Mary, God bless her, would wear some lavender water delicately sprinkled on her handkerchief, and, when she’s feeling racy, behind her ears. Mrs Bennet is that woman at the theatre who decided to douse herself in Dior’s Poison. 

I hope these were helpful, dear Hannah, and wish you such luck in finding a perfume you’ll love!


Mishka Hoosen is a writer, creative director, and neophyte perfumer living and working in Cape Town, South Africa. His first novel, Call it a difficult night, was published by Deep South Books in 2015, and he is currently working on a book about perfume and the anthropocene thanks to a residency from IFAS. Mishka is The Attic on Eighth’s Perfume Columnist.