If you’re in need of something cozy and indulgent of your childhood sense of wonder, I cannot recommend reading The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang (First Second, $14.50) enough. This feel-good story is a perfect way to kick off Pride Month with some positive representation.
The Prince and The Dressmaker is a heartwarming coming-of-age story. It follows the relationship between Frances, a young woman who works as a seamstress, and Prince Sebastian, the heir to the royal throne of Belgium. Frances is a creative dressmaker with an eye for avant-garde fashion. This earns her little respect from her traditional boss but catches the eye of the prince immediately. Sebastian hires Frances as the royal seamstress and together they secretly run the underground fashion scene in their city- Frances as the anonymous seamstress and Sebastian as his alter ego, Lady Crystallia.
Despite their success in the fashion world, everything must remain secret. Sebastian fears his dual identity puts his family’s reputation and his place on the throne in jeopardy. Pretending to be someone you’re not isn’t easy, though. It’s a simple story with fairytale like tones and drama that simultaneously never feels too dark but keeps the stakes high for our main characters.
I cannot stress how much I am continuously charmed by Wang’s art. It’s got fluidity to it in the way the panels tend to flow and float at will. The smooth, rounded strokes of the linework give the characters bounce. Wang’s style is cartoonish and pliable, which makes the characters easily relatable because their expressions are always so clear and exaggerated. Wang doesn’t shy away from color, and the gowns designed for Lady Crystallia take full advantage of this. Her dresses often fill up entire page spreads in place of plot development, and I have no qualms with this sacrifice. Lady Crystallia’s outfits are stunning and purposefully contrast Sebastian’s plain, regal uniforms. The life Wang breathes into the narrative with her art perfectly elevates the storybook quality of the plot.
I could read this book over and over, a hundred times. It’s comforting. Quick and simple on the surface, it tells an important story about coming to terms with your identity. It’s a story that a lot of LGBTQ+ folks can relate to, either as something they’re actively going through or something they’ve already passed. When Sebastian sees himself in the mirror, it’s not always himself that he sees, and this book gently takes the reader’s hand and says, “that’s okay.” It doesn’t promise that the journey will be easy, but it does promise that things will work out in the end. That’s a message a lot of LGBTQ+ people need more of.