The Prince and the Dressmaker, by Jen Wang, is a graphic novel about Prince Sebastian and his dressmaker, a girl named Frances. Together they take the Paris fashion world by storm, with Sebastian secretly going out as Lady Crystallia in the dresses Frances designs. But Sebastian’s secret life is beginning to wear on both Sebastian and Frances, who has her own dreams of becoming a famous designer.
1—A New Job
Frances fulfills a a difficult order for a difficult client attending a ball held for the prince. Frances designs a stunning dress—as in, it stuns the girl’s mother and all of polite society—and gets reamed by her employer for it. But someone at the ball loved the dress and send sends their trusted servant to hire Frances, which she accepts, not knowing who’s hiring her only that it’s got to be better than working for her old boss. Introductions are not what Frances expects, what with her new client covering their face. But due to a bit of clumsiness, Frances’s new employer is revealed to be Prince Sebastian. Frances accepts Sebastian for who he is and and he encourages her art. The two quickly become friends.
2—Frances and Sebastian
It’s an adorable friendship which grows into an adorable romance. Not that there’s no angst—Sebastian and Frances are teenagers, after all—but the angst isn’t in the growing romance itself. Rather, it’s Sebastian trying to face up to all the crushing responsibility of being his father’s only son and heir, while feeling like he isn’t because he likes to dress up as a woman. Which also makes choosing a bride more difficult as he feels he has nothing in common with the young women his parents set him up with. It’s also in Frances trying to both be loyal to Sebastian and keep his secret while not being kept secret herself—which would mean giving up her lifelong dream. Ultimately, this is a sweet story, not a tragic one, with support and love winning the day.
Jen Wang’s art is simple and beautiful, communicating a lot with a little. I wouldn’t call the art minimalist though—there’s a sumptuousness in the brush strokes and colors. I loved the character designs, and of course the dresses. There’s just something charming about it all, which suits the story perfectly.
I loved The Prince and the Dressmaker, and the only reason I didn’t finish it in one sitting is the damned anxiety. I’m glad there was ultimately nothing to be anxious about, with an unexpected but perfect happily ever after.