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.
Notes on This Title
In this database, Sebastian is tagged as “genderfluid,” “nonbinary or genderqueer,” and “trans female.” Of the titular Prince Sebastian’s gender identity, creator Jen Wang says, “To me, Sebastian is someone who identifies with different modes of gender expression and is comfortable alternating between both masculine and feminine. Genderqueer is probably the best descriptor. But I’m also open to readers’ interpretations of how they see the character. If a reader feels that this story is just the first step to Sebastian discovering they’re trans, or if they feel Sebastian is a cis male that likes to dress up I’m happy with all of that!” (Source: Forbes)
The dressmaker Frances is tagged “queer female” because she expresses attraction toward Sebastian’s alter ego Lady Crystallia. However, her identity, too, is open to interpretation.
The Prince and the Dressmaker depicts brief sexual harassment, alcohol consumption, a genderfluid character being outed against their will, and the derision that follows.
The graphic novel has been optioned for a film adaptation by Universal Pictures. (Source: Deadline Hollywood)
2018 Harvey Award for Book of the Year - Nominee
2018 Harvey Award for Best Children or Young Adult Book - Nominee
Starred review: “Wang’s buoyant, richly colored artwork beautifully envisions Frances’ designs against an already captivating background. It’s not that the de rigueur fashions are ugly or boring—rather, everything is beautiful—but Frances’ ensembles stand out stunningly. As Lady Crystallia gains notoriety, and Frances gets closer to meeting her idol, a designer of ballet costumes, elements of Frances’ designs trickle subtly into the wider fashion world. But fame brings attention, and Seb’s worries about being exposed surpass his loyalty to his friend. Though the conclusion is perhaps too rosy given the suggested time period, that’s an easy quibble to forgive, thanks to the gorgeously dense artwork, lively sense of movement, effervescent fashions, sweet romance, and heartwarming denouement.” (Source: Booklist)
Starred review: “With a setting and palette reminiscent of Disney’s Cinderella and a setup involving a royal ball, this graphic novel has all the trappings of a rags-to-riches romance. And it is one — in a joyfully subversive and inclusive way. … Wang’s illustrations balance the finery of the clothing and settings with her relatable, endearing protagonists. Dynamic panel shapes and sizes accentuate the emotions of each scene, whether poignant or triumphant. An author’s note explains Wang’s process and provides glimpses of the conceptual sketches.” (Source:The Horn Book)
Starred review: “The relationship between Frances and Sebastian—both as a conflicted prince and the glamorous Crystallia—glows; Frances understands that Sebastian and Crystallia are two halves of a brilliant whole. ‘It’s weird, I don’t feel like Prince Sebastian could lead a nation into battle, but Lady Crystallia could,’ admits the prince, inspiring Frances to create an armor-themed dress for their next midnight escapade. Frances’s daring designs shine in Wang’s elegantly drafted and gorgeously colored illustrations, and the irreverently anachronistic approach to the setting provides a lovely and humorous counterbalance to the seriousness of the prince’s situation (‘Prepare to get your lady groove on,’ insists the burly, bearded king, who is eager for Sebastian to be betrothed). It’s all but certain to deliver grins, gasps, and some happy tears.” (Source: Publishers Weekly)
Starred review: “In this well-crafted coming-of-age story, both Frances and Sebastian struggle to understand themselves and to embrace their identities. There’s a hint of romance between Frances and Sebastian, but the emphasis is on their friendship. Wang doesn’t dive deeply into Sebastian’s sexual or gender identity, instead focusing on the message of self-acceptance. As Sebastian puts it, ‘This is who I am. I’m a prince who likes to wear dresses.’ The full-color artwork is gorgeous, featuring a variety of over-the-top dresses that fashionistas will envy. Facial expressions and the overall movement of the art enhance the enticing narrative; fans beginning to age out of Raina Telgemeier and Victoria Jamieson will find a new favorite in Wang. VERDICT With inviting illustrations and a relatable story line, this tender tale of friendship and identity is sure to delight even readers who aren’t fans of the graphic novel format.” (Source: School Library Journal)
“Wang draws lush environments and breathtaking dresses in this book, but her greatest strength is in her character work. Each character has a memorable design and their emotions are broken down with total clarity in both their facial expressions and body language.” (Source: A.V. Club)
“Wang’s linework has as much movement and play as Crystallia’s frocks, and her palette seamlessly wanders from petit-four brights to the moody darks of an ombre swatch. This is preindustrial Paris, so the cast is white, with the only otherness being class differentiation. Sebastian’s story shouldn’t be taken as a testament to how easy it is for one to reveal one’s true self to one’s parents, particularly if one is LGBTQIAP: Sebastian meets acceptance far too easily, particularly for such a public figure in such a conservative age. Sebastian’s summation of Frances’ aesthetic underscores the ultimate blueprint: fantasy and drama.” (Source: Kirkus)
“There is so much love in Wang’s illustrations, which are perfectly suited to the fairy tale nature of the book — colorful, whimsical, adorable. Her characters’ expressions tell stories of joy and heartbreak, of finally getting what you want — only to have it taken away, or threatened. Prince Sebastian and Frances are on a journey together, and while their course isn’t entirely surprising (after all, it is a love story, not just about loving others, but about loving yourself), it’s completely satisfying. In modern fairy tales, there really are happy endings.” (Source: New York Times)
“Wang’s characters are so fully realized, their conflicts and emotions so palpable, and their world so exact, so vital, and so well executed that it’s easy to forget that it is a fairy tale—at least until the happy ending arrives, the first signs of it doing so striking like a lightning bolt.” (Source: School Library Journal)
“This tale of a cross-dressing heir to the throne and the girl who makes his double life possible is by turns sweet and cathartic, and Wang’s lithe inks and dazzling colors are a sumptuous meal for the eyes.” (Source: Vulture)