Ever wonder what to wear to a cocktail party when you have a disability?  Been there; done that.  I love parties. Getting an evite or that rare old-school paper invite in the mail is exciting. It always feels good to be included.

Most parties these days are casual. If a dress code is mentioned, it typically says “Saturday Night Snazzy” or something else implying “Look Like You Give A Shit” but anything goes.

But, getting the rare “Cocktail Party Attire” invite used to cause me great anxiety and stress. With an invisible physical disability, I have worries most people never even think about.

What will I wear that will cover my AFO’s? How long will I have to stand in place?

Will they even have a sit down dinner? How will I hold a plate and a drink?

Maybe it’s age or planning ahead, but I don’t stress as much anymore.

Here are my top tips for cocktail party survival:


Dress that Works With Orthotics & AFO’s

The LBD (little black dress) classic cocktail party dress is not easy if you wear any sort of orthotic.

I find fall and winter parties easier to plan for.  I can pair some styles of dresses with tall boots over my braces.

Some of you may not be able to do this.

It’s important to have seasonal cocktail attire outfits you feel great in.

Jumpsuits are great but are hard to get in and out of.

A pair of wide-leg crepe pants and a fitted top in the same color can mimic the look of a jumpsuit. This is a great option for both winter and summer events.

I also love a silk maxi dress in the summer.

This is one I wore to a wedding this past summer that called for “cocktail attire.”

It is by Jil Stuart, and I found it for $89 on Amazon.



Most parties have an appetizer hour. If you have a disability and trouble standing, this can feel like an eternity.

When possible (very bad idea if it’s your sister’s wedding) arrive about 30 minutes after the start time.

Most people do this anyhow. But, if you’re a perpetually on-time, always the one waiting for others kind of person like me, you need to schedule your late arrival.

This will cut the appetizer hour in half and provide just enough mingling time.


Party Room With Walls for Balance Problems

Whenever I go to a mostly standing event, I do a quick room inventory:

Are there any cocktail tables set-up? Posts to lean against? Where’s the bar?

If the venue lacks hi-tops or beams to casually or hold on to or lean against, I make a b-line to the bar where most people usually congregate, and subtly use it to lean on.

I note the venue floor. Carpeting = Woo hoo! Good. Wooden floors = Crap! Slippery, bad.

I remind my amazing, supportive husband that when it feels like I’m grabbing his arm for dear life, I probably am.



For those of us who have balance challenges when stone cold sober, alcohol is obviously not our friend.

Some people abstain from alcohol because they take medications and/or because it can worsen their condition. (If this is you, enjoy your little hotdogs in a blanket and skip to #5.)

It’s difficult for even non-balance challenged people to hold a cocktail in one hand and a finger size appetizer or small plate in another. So if you have a balance issue, why even try?

I choose an appetizer or a cocktail, not both.

Since my fine motor skills suck, and I tend to drop more food on me than I actually eat, I choose to have a drink & plan ahead and by eating a bowl of cereal before leaving the house.

I ask the bartender to put whatever I order in a tall (never that evil hard to hold stem) glass. I get it on the rocks with half soda water which has the double benefit of fall prevention and no extra calorie retention.


Woman with CMT at Party

As the night wears on, standing becomes more and more uncomfortable. It’s important to lay the groundwork early in the evening that will ensure that you won’t be sitting in a corner alone by the end of the night.

Since dancing on tables is not appropriate (or possible), bring the party to you with the power of great communication skills. People love talking about themselves. If you see someone walk by with beautiful eyes or a fabulous dress on, be sure to tell them.

Give sincere compliments, make good eye contact, and ask open-ended questions. Even ooh and ahh at their kids photos. If all else fails, ask the waiter to bring a round of shots!



  1. Lainie, Having had the pleasure of being at many of these cocktail parties with you I have to say that you have mastered the art. Your final words of advice of assuring you’re not alone at the end of the night are classic Lainie and I can guarantee your readers that you are never alone and it’s because you are genuinely interested in those around you and always find a way to make those around you feel good about themselves. I’ve been canoodling your encouragement to be an active hostess again, so look for your invite and I promise there will be seating and no lbd required.

    • Cathy, thank you for reading this, taking time to comment & for just being you. You’re the true hostess with the hostess and I would love to sit on your couch. ?❤️?❤️

  2. When I started scheduling the Chronic Illness Bloggers posts yesterday, I had already resigned myself to not being well enough to attend the New Year party we had been asked to. So on coming across your post, I was able to imagine myself putting on a cocktail dress, wearing high heels (def dreaming!) and working the room with drink in hand and nibbling appetizers……funny thing is that the party was a fancy dress party themed “Pensioners – the one you do or do not want to be” so my usual PJs would have been fine. You made me smile and I shared your link on my regular feature Monday Magic – (this week) New Year Inspiring Blogs for You!, Happy New Year, Claire (PainPalsBlog)

    • Claire, you do such amazing work for people with chronic conditions and especially for bloggers. Thank you for that & for taking the time to read my post and comment. I hope you had a great time at the party and happy healthy new year to you. ??

  3. Even as a guy these are great tips.

    Any advice for going on a 9 day bender at Burning Man? Gonna be a ton of standing so plan on having a fistful of narcotics to help with the pain since I will be on my feet 18 to 24 hours a day.

    • Hi jeffery, thanks so much for reading it! So curious what search you did that lead you to this post? It’s one of my favorites but has not gotten a lot of traction on Google.

      How cool that you are going to burning man! I would love it if you wanted to do a guest post once you’re done? I would suggest one of those cool hiking sticks that has a seat that folds out for a festival like that. You could make it cool With the kind of stickers etc. that you put on a guitar case. Just a thought! There will be a lot of narcotics irregardless of pain so you will fit right in

      • Ya I can post and a great idea.

        Found this place off the CMT support group web site. I remember you from there some time ago. Hope you are doing well. I had bilateral BKAs last year. Yep, lost both my legs below my knees. While it meant financial ruin best decision ever.

        So, there will be info posting on YouTube on my journey. There is a mobility theme camp for the physically challenged. I figured a great place to start and will be around people in the same challenge as myself. They do charge $150 and require me to help a certain amount but should be worth it.

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