Are There Lesbians? No
Prince Sebastian has a secret: at night he puts on dresses and takes on the role of the fashion-forward Lady Crystallia. His best friend and dressmaker, Francis, dreams of a day when she can take the credit for her designs, but with her only client a secret it seems that dreams and friendship can only take you so far.
The Prince and the Dressmaker is one of the most heart-warming stories I have read in a long time. It gave me so many warm, fuzzy feelings and I almost cried from happiness reading it. It’s literally so sweet I think it gave me diabetes. Jen Wang has written a genuinely beautiful and happy-making story and I can’t wait to make sure everyone I know reads it.
Set in late 19thC France which one of my favourite time periods to read about in fiction, The Prince and the Dressmaker would be right at home among your favourite Disney movies, and indeed, it reads just like one, except queerer and therefore better in every way! This comic is really just a delightful, genderqueer fairy-tale about a prince who is sometimes a prince and sometimes a princess.
As the main characters are teenagers, they are at a pivotal point of change in their lives – additionally, the time period in which the comic is set was also a great time of change for the world. By making change and mutability a core feature of the comic, Jen Wang has opened us up to the idea of gender fluidity before it is even introduced! My favourite moment was when Sebastian describes looking in the mirror and not feeling quite right. I’ve been feeling that a lot lately but somehow it’s easier to identify when other people say it out loud.
[[Minor Spoilers below cut]]
I love that the core concerns Sebastian has are not within himself – he knows he embodies both genders – but that he will not be accepted and will let his family down. It was so heartbreaking when he was finally outed, not necessarily because of how his family treated him, but because he himself was so disappointed!
I think one of my favourite parts about this comic was not simply that Sebastian is genderqueer, but also how far it went towards also arguing that men can also wear dresses. My heart nearly exploded when it cut to the hyper-masculine King wearing a beautiful flowing dress and not being even remotely self-conscious about it. Another thing I enjoyed was that the romance between the two main characters felt natural and, even though Sebastian sometimes felt like a woman, it didn’t mean he was automatically attracted to men. I loved that Francis loved him no matter what, and that she didn’t even question it.
Additionally, Jen Wang’s art style is absolutely fantastic. I loved all the rounded shapes and clear colours, and of course, all the fantastically detailed dress designs. I loved that the women didn’t suffer from the Disney-syndrome where they all have large eyes and small noses. There were chubby ladies and ladies with long noses (heck, the Prince and therefore Lady Crystallia manages to look fantastic with a very prominent nose!) and ladies of all ages. Additionally, not only the art but the writing was fantastic and I found myself laughing out loud on more than one occasion. The Prince and the Dressmaker also gives me some serious shoujo manga vibes. This could be because the most recent anime I watched was Rose of Versailles but the bright colours, beautiful dresses and often over-the-top nature of the characters really put me in that frame of mind.
To be fair, it is hard to pick out all the things I enjoyed because I loved them all. The Prince and the Dressmaker, is a truly sweet, very queer comic for all ages. I didn’t want to stop reading it.