Title: The Prince and the Dressmaker
Author/artist: Jen Wang
Release Date: February 13, 2018
Publisher: First Second Books (Macmillan imprint)
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?
The Prince and the Dressmaker is bright and wonderful. It's a story about dreams and dresses and secrets, of courage and fear. Of finding the strength to be yourself out in public when you're afraid that the world won't accept the real you.
Frances is a dressmaker. She's incredibly talented and incredibly underappreciated, working in the back of a dressmaker's shop with so many other seamstresses. She dreams of being a well-known and wanted designing, of her designs being worn by so many at so many different events. When given the chance, Frances designs something bold and unexpected, drawing the interest of a rather secretive client. Sebastian is a prince who's happy enough being a prince. Except for the times when he hides himself away, more comfortable in an elegant ballgown than his princely uniform. Finding Frances, seeing her designs, gives him the chance to finally go out looking how he wants to in a dress. He's the happiest he's been in some time, but that doesn't necessarily mean that Frances is happy being his secret dressmaker. She wants to be known for her work, wants acknowledgement, and Sebastian's secrets keep her hidden away. And so they come to a crossroads.
I love Jen Wang's artwork, the style and shape of the characters and the lavish designs of all the dresses. The soft, curious, determined face of Francis paired with Sebastian's bright smile. And that big triangle of a nose that he has. The slim lines of Sebastian in contrast with the large barrel chest of his father's. The classic European architecture and clothing styles, the ballgowns with full skirts and bare necks and collarbones. The uniforms and the carriages, the buildings and the bathing costumes. All of it is just gorgeous. It all works so well with the story of Frances and Sebastian.
I love what this story is, what it's trying to show in the story of Sebastian and Frances. Here we have a young man who's looking for a way to fulfill his parents' dreams while hiding that sometimes he likes wearing dresses and a young woman who's looking to live her dream of being a famous designer and dressmaker instead of being forced into the backroom to slave away on something that someone else will get credit for. A young man who wants to hide and a young woman who wants to be seen. I love how this story says that there is no shame in being who you are at the very core of your soul, no shame in wearing what you want to wear or being who you want to be. That the world can be that kind and accepting, that it can value your decisions. That there is nothing wrong with a teenage boy who wants to wear dresses. This is a wondrously kind and gorgeous book that tells closeted or secreted away teens that they are not alone, than they can smash their way through outdated gender norms in order to finally be themselves and that there will be people ready and willing to support them and love them. A must-read for those looking for kind, honest stories about real people, for those who've always looked for a story about a prince and the dresses he wears.
(I received an e-galley of this title to review from First Second Books through NetGalley.)