The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang tells the story of Sebastian, prince of Belgium, who travels to Paris for a summer with his parents. There, he hears of a rather scandalous but fabulous dress a lady wore to a dance, and he decides to seek out the person who made it—because Sebastian secretly loves wearing dresses. So he hires the seamstress, a girl named Frances, and they team up to make him the new fashion icon of Paris, Lady Chrystallia. But the two start to wonder how long they can keep this secret, when Frances’ career and Sebastian’s status as a royal could be at risk.
This graphic novel is so adorable. Not only is the art style charming and distinct, the story is lovely. I adored the two main characters within just a few pages, and watching their friendship blossom was wonderful. Sebastian is an amazing character, struggling to accept aspects of his identity in relation to his status as a prince. But at the same time, he is also brave and kind. And Frances is so sweet and clever. As a pair, they are fantastic. And as events occur that could hurt them, seeing them have a healthy relationship that isn’t bogged down by unnecessary drama (like some romances) was refreshing. Rather, the problems they deal with are realistic.
The plot and pacing are excellent. I’m not used to graphic novels, but I could easily follow the time passing. Due to the graphic aspect of this, it of course has a very cinematic feel; I really want a movie version of this. I felt everything I was supposed to feel while reading this—happiness, sorrow, worry, exuberance, and love.
I really love Sebastian’s story here: his gender identity isn’t given an exact term, but considering this is set sometime in the 1920s (I think), that makes sense; he would not have had the terminology to describe it back then. Still, the themes represented here—that society’s expectations can prevent people from being free to be who they really are, that gender roles can be quite harmful and restrictive, and that love wins—shine through.
I have only one tiny complaint. Sometimes the dialogue sounds a little too modern and casual for the time period, and especially since Sebastian is royalty. However, that’s only noticeable in a couple scenes, and this story is spectacular enough that I forgave it.
In the end, The Prince and the Dressmaker is simply darling. It’s heartfelt and sweet, with a moving story about young love and embracing who you are. It’s also about family and duty, gender and society, fashion and politics, bravery and love. And that’s the main word I have for it: I love this story.
Overall rating: 9.5/10