Review: The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang

Rating: 4.5 stars
Release Date: February 13, 2018
Publisher: First Second
Genre: young adult graphic novel
Format/Source: finished copy, from the publisher
Status: standalone

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.

Disclaimer: I was provided a copy of The Prince and the Dressmaker by the publisher. This does not affect the content of my review.

The Prince and the Dressmaker is soooooo cute! I know authors usually hate this word because they find it diminutive, but this book is sweet and feel-good and lovely and CUTE. The Prince and the Dressmaker explores topics like drag, gender identity (without labels), and artists receiving credit for their work!

Note: Sebastian's identity is never labelled, but I know some readers consider him to be non-binary or genderqueer. I am using masculine pronouns in this review because Sebastian uses he/him pronouns when he presents as male. I don't see any pronouns for Lady Chrystallia listed in the book so I will use Lady Crystallia's name instead of pronouns.

I think this graphic novel does a FANTASTIC job of showing characters being supportive of someone's identity. Frances in particular always confronts anyone who speaks ill of Sebastian (including a moment where she gently but firmly corrects the king when he states that Sebastian "was confused" about himself), but Sebastian's... valet/butler/bodyguard (??) Emile is in the know since the very beginning and is quietly supportive. Although he states it's none of his business, Emile protects Frances and Lady Crystallia on their outings and also helps them reunite after their falling out. And eventually the queen and king come to realize their mistake in placing so many pressures on Sebastian and refusing to see him as he is: a prince who likes dresses. The king then has a pretty badass moment where he defends Sebastian and gets some help from his friends to help Frances. I do want to warn you that there are a few characters who react very poorly to the revelation of Sebastian's identity as Lady Crystallia (initially the king and queen are among these people), but screw those guys.

The romance in this book is subtle (it's not the focus of the story) but oh so charming and sweet. I love how Frances and Sebastian build their friendship first, based on a mutual passion for fashion, and then it just... sweetly, softly, slowly evolves. The art is seriously so cute because there are closeups on held hands and wide awake "what if..." panels. Also, there is a kiss that happens between Frances and Lady Crystallia so I want to emphasize that Frances doesn't just love Sebastian when he presents as male. I LOVE THIS KISS SO MUCH, and DANG Frances looks good wearing Lady Crystallia's lipstick. :D

I love that Jen uses this book to mention the hot topic of artists receiving recognition for their work. So much of this story is about Sebastian's secret life as a prince who loves dresses, but without Frances, Lady Crystallia would never have captivated the world. Lady Crystallia exists in large part thanks to the powerful garments Frances designs. And it really sucks that these two wind up in a hard place when they realize if Frances, who is publicly known as Sebastian's seamstress, takes credit for Lady Crystallia's style, Sebastian will be outed. And both things are equally true: talented artists deserve credit AND queer people deserve to reveal their identities when and to whom they feel comfortable.

I really enjoyed this novel a lot, and I definitely do recommend it. It's a quick read, the art is lovely (THOSE DRESSES THO), and you'll absolutely fall in love with Sebastian and Frances and Lady Crystallia.

Trigger warning for those who need it: Sebastian IS publicly outed without his consent. Not by Frances during their conflict noted above but by another character.

Purchase Links:

About the Author:
Jen Wang is a cartoonist, author and illustrator living in Los Angeles. She is the author of The Prince and the Dressmaker, Koko Be Good, and co-author of the New York Times Bestselling graphic novel In Real Life with Cory Doctorow. Her work has also appeared in Los Angeles Magazine, The Believer, Hazlitt, Slate, and McSweeney’s. She has also written for the Adventure Time and Lumberjanes comic series. She is the co-founder and organizer of the annual festival Comics Arts Los Angeles.

Author Links:


  1. I forgot about this book! I remember really wanting to read it. Great review and thanks for the trigger warning. Now I have to know what happens.

    1. It's such a great story, nd I hope you like it! I'm glad you appreciate the tw. I'm trying to be better about including content tags.

  2. I read this and enjoyed it, including the wonderful artwork. The characters' identities are certainly very, very ambiguous! The prince is portrayed in a lot of ways as very, very effeminate, in ways that wouldn't be out of place in, say, the 1960s, flouncing about and batting his eyelids, but maybe he'll marry the pretty, female tailor someday. It's kind of odd.

  3. This sounds so good! I want to check out more graphic novels and this one is definitely on my list! :)

  4. I still have not read this!! Gah! Every review I read says that the dresses are beautiful. :)

  5. This sounds so adorable! I've heard so many good things. I need to read this!

  6. Love the review and graphic novels.