Summary: 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? [Image and summary via Goodreads]
Review: I’m pretty much always on the lookout for gorgeously illustrated graphic novels to read, and The Prince and His Dressmaker fits the bill. It’s a historical fairy tale story set in Paris with a focus on fashion, creativity, and gender. I enjoyed reading this from start to finish, but readers should be aware that there is an outing scene that could be triggering.
I’ve been looking forward to reading something by Jen Wang, ever since I read In Real Life by Cory Doctorow and illustrated by Wang. I wasn’t a huge fan of In Real Life’s story given that it had some white savior vibes to it, but I was taken by the lovely and innovative illustrations. I’m so glad that I get to see more of Wang’s art. I’m sure you can tell just from the cover of The Prince and His Dressmaker that her art style is incredible.
The story and the art meld together perfectly. As the title conveys, the story is very much a fairy tale, with a downtrodden and hardworking heroine who longs for a better life and creative freedom for her dressmaking. She gets that chance when she meets the prince, who commissions her to make dresses. Thanks to their partnership, Sebastian goes out on the town in Paris as Lady Crystallia, each night wearing a dress more fabulous than the last.
As with all fairy tales, everything does not go smoothly. Not everyone is accepting of who Sebastian is. There is a happy fairy tale ending, but I’m still not sure how I feel about it, given the wider context of this story. A happy fairy tale ending can be a cause for hope, but it can also be a way of dismissing real problems. Ultimately, I’m glad I read this, but for anyone who wants to avoid stories that involve outing, I recommend caution or maybe steering clear entirely.
I’m looking forward to what Wang does next. I can’t get enough of her illustration, and this was a promising and overall heartwarming story.
Recommendation: Borrow it someday, especially if you’re looking for more graphic novels to read! (TW: Transphobia, outing)