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At the royal wedding, Serena Williams made a strong case for sneakers as formalwear

Meghan Markle's friend, US tennis player Serena Williams (CL) and her husband US entrepreneur Alexis Ohanian (CR) arrive for the wedding ceremony of Britain's Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex and US actress Meghan Markle at St George's Chapel, Windsor Castle, in Windsor, on May 19, 2018. Odd ANDERSEN/Pool via REUTERS - RC124E745250
Odd Andersen/Pool via Reuters
Look number one of the day for Serena Williams.
By Marc Bain
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

The etiquette around formal wedding attire can be perplexing. So if you’ve ever wondered whether it’s ok to ditch the uncomfortable high heels you wore for the ceremony and switch into a pair of sneakers so you can go on standing and dancing at the after party, even if it’s a royal wedding you’re attending, know that there’s now good precedent for the move.

American tennis star Serena Williams and husband Alexis Ohanian were among the guests at the May 19 marriage of Britain’s prince Harry and American television actress Meghan Markle, the new duchess of Sussex. For the ceremony, Williams wore a pair of blush pumps that matched her pink Versace dress.

Later, she changed into a colorful Valentino gown, accessorized with a pair of Valentino sneakers.

“Little known fact: I often wear sneakers under my evening gown,” Williams wrote in an Instagram post, with a shoutout to Valentino artistic director Pierpaolo Piccioli for giving them to her at the last minute. The tennis star added that she usually opts to stay comfortable on long nights.

Formality, of course, isn’t what it used to be, and sneakers have indeed grown into a cultural staple in their own right. Even luxury fashion labels recognize that they have to sell sneakers if they’re going to stay relevant—the comfy shoes are only getting more popular, at times at the expense of formal footwear such as heels. Sales of women’s sneakers jumped 37% in the US last year, while sales of high heels dropped 11%, according to data from research firm NPD Group.

Williams, who nabbed a call-out from Glamour as one of the best-dressed of the evening, in part because of her sneakers, has made her love of sporty shoes plain. At her own wedding, she wore a pair of bedazzled sneakers by Nike, her long-time sponsor.

So as long as the situation allows, go ahead and switch into some sneakers. Just make sure they’re clean and fresh, not a beat-up old pair, and opt for a casual lifestyle sneaker rather than something like a technical running shoe. It will pair better with non-athletic clothing.

Odds are the bride and groom will be thinking of your comfort anyway. At many weddings, women get flip-flops or slippers to change into. Even the royal couple handed out slippers for their reception.

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