Paris, at the dawn of the modern age:
Prince Sebastian is looking for a bride―or rather, his parents are looking for one for him. Sebastian is too busy hiding his secret life from everyone. At night he puts on daring dresses and takes Paris by storm as the fabulous Lady Crystallia―the hottest fashion icon in the world capital of fashion!
Sebastian’s secret weapon (and best friend) is the brilliant dressmaker Frances―one of only two people who know the truth: sometimes this boy wears dresses. But Frances dreams of greatness, and being someone’s secret weapon means being a secret. Forever. How long can Frances defer her dreams to protect a friend? Jen Wang weaves an exuberantly romantic tale of identity, young love, art, and family. A fairy tale for any age, The Prince and the Dressmaker will steal your heart.
CW: transphobia, forced outing
Another graphic novel I’ve just got to get my own copy of, The Prince and the Dressmaker is the colorful, joyful, heartfelt comic of my dreams. Centered on Frances the dressmaker and Sebastian the prince, it follows their adventures in dressing Sebastian as Lady Crystallia to take the world by storm (and to allow Sebastian to embrace his relationship with gender, of course; he explicitly remarks that some days he feels like a prince, other days like a princess). The art style has a cartoony feeling to it that gives every panel so much life, and I loved how colorful it all was. For a story so centered on fashion and the people involved in creating and flaunting dresses, every bit of color felt so important.
But beyond the art style, I really enjoyed the way Sebastian could be himself with Frances, and that Frances was willing to help him without question. There are minor characters who make remarks that are less than kindly towards anyone daring to exist outside a strict gender binary, and Sebastian certainly worries about it (as folks who are in the closet often do), but the ultimate message is that of love, acceptance, and support.
There’s also a heavy thread of partnership and cooperation that tries to sort out how far two people who care about one another are actually obliged to go. It comes to a head when the relationship begins to feel somewhat one-sided and limiting, but ultimately sorts itself out with friendship and cooperation and simultaneous acknowledgement of self-worth back on top.
Will I ever say no to power of friendship stories? No, probably not.
I will say, though, that there is one scene where Sebastian is forcibly outed while in drag to his family. It’s not a warm fuzzies scene by any means, and while the ultimate resolution of the story isn’t negative and centered on this moment, it is rather jarring and unpleasant, not to mention it feels invasive and even dangerous. The situation is challenged, and the story doesn’t let it slide as something that “just happens,” but that doesn’t make it pleasant to read all the same, and I feel like it’s worth warning about in my review should anyone need that heads up.
Other than that, though, The Prince and the Dressmaker was vibrant and delightful all around. It’s suitable for just about all ages, and the positive messages are just so delightfully affirming and sweet. Well worth the time to read, and a visual treat for sure, especially if you enjoy lots and lots of costume changes in your character design. 😉
So, have you read The Prince and the Dressmaker? Which of the dresses is your favorite? And if you haven’t think, do you think you’ll give it a try now? Even if you’re not a huge graphic novel fan, I encourage you to give it a shot! Either way, though, let’s chat!