The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang is a graphic novel about a prince that likes to wear dresses and (yeah, amazing you guessed it right) a dressmaker.
Clear titles work best because I tumbled on this book browsing for a bedtime story for the kids, and it ended up being one for me. This being said, I believe the novel is suited for any kid with the attention span to read or be read a longer story.
I can’t wait for them: I want to spread the love because I adored The Prince and the Dressmaker front to back.
So let’s get down to business:
While I read the blurb for Prince and the Dressmaker I have to say Frances pulled me in. Her struggle to make it as a famous dressmaker in a fashonista city reminded me of the series Atelier. Atelier was produced by Fuji Television for Netflix and aired in 2015. It was a show about an undergarment designer, and her protegé, who is a fabric expert.
Apart from drool-worthy, dreamy designs, Atelier treated the less fabulous but overwhelmignly real aspects of selling your dream: corporate life, branching out and the risk of compromise. While The Prince and the Dressmaker focuses more on its characters, love for the creative process is still a key theme.
Which means the speech bubbles offer some real soul-food for any creator. Behold:
Everything good that’s happened to me has been because of sewing. I’m afraid if I ever stop I’ll be nothing.
Speaking about creation:
Dresses, dresses dresses. Each creation of Frances tells its own story. The way her inspiration can be triggered by watching Sebastian brush his hair, say something about a battlefield, or even the colour scheme of the dress of one of his dates.
It’s that famous little spark that then evolves, with much effort, into an entire dress. But that spark, which, for me, is one of the best feelings in the entire world, I don’t always find it easy to explain, and The Prince and the Dressmaker visualized it for me.
2. Art and character design
I’m not an expert in describing comic styles. But I’ll give it a try cause damn, this is a beauty. And graphic novels are le neuvième art: never forget this!
The Prince and the Dressmaker has a gorgeous colour scheme that’s both rich and soft. It fits the time setting like a silk glove because while the exact date isn’t defined, large department stores are just popping up, and that’s exactly when romanticism blossomed. Flowing gowns, flowery patterns and orangeries don’t exactly match the wild nature settings of that artistic movement, yet the word kept flashing through my mind in curly letters.
Despite this Jen Wang uses clear, strong lines and beautiful but sparse background scenes, leaving room to rest your eye and most importantly: to feast on the beautiful swirling gowns.
I’m a complete sucker for facial expressions in comics. I have no shame, quirck me an eyebrow and I’ll profess my never-ending love (if you are made of flesh and blood, don’t try this, because I’ll run).
Since The Prince and the Dressmaker is high on both new and old emotions that get room to breathe it’s an absolute delight that Jen Wang excels at capturing them on her characters’ faces, both main and side actors alike.
You’ll fall in love. I promise.
Sebastian likes dresses, and as Lady Crystallia he rocks them with style. While he starts out in the closet with his beauties, it’s a pure and utter joy to see him transform when he’s out.
We severely lack these main actors that fall outside the gender binary and that flourish in our fairy tales. So I was very happy to find Sebastian and I will keep him close for years to come.
All too often parents are either very acceptant of LGBTQ+ themes or not at all. At least in fiction. There is however, a grey zone, and where I live this is still a majority zone.
What I loved here, is that the endgame in Sebastian’s relation with his parents didn’t feel unnatural, and I could actually sense where it would lead. They are by no means perfect but they are all the more relatable for it.
Sebastian is crown prince of Belgium and while we may very well earn this honour by being a convenient neighbour to the city of love and fashion, if we had royals like this, I’d go waving my flag for them every year.
5. Healthy romance
I’m not going to expand on this one. But I very often feel like fictional romances aren’t balanced enough to earn their stripes. With the risk of sounding like an 80 year old granny: the older I get the more this bothers me. So let’s cheer for healthy romance!
P.S. Right before I posted this, I found that Universal acquired the rights for the Prince and the Dressmaker. I am OVER THE MOON about that, because this story deserves to reach those non-reading masses. Don’t wait though. You are missing out.