If someone is walking up the stairs in a long, fluffy ball gown, and thus has to hold it in order to climb up the stairs, what sounds natural:

She had to pick her gown up to climb up the stairs.

She had to lift her gown up to climb up the stairs.

She had to pull her gown up to climb up the stairs.

She had to hike her gown up to climb up the stairs.

She had to hitch her gown up to climb up the stairs.

She had to hold her gown up to climb up the stairs.

Are all of these equally likely? What do you think?

  • I took the liberty of restoring your original wording with "gown". I'm a native speaker and I don't know which is correct here. We can't require you to already know the correct wording even before you write the question! A good answer will explain this—and you might get answers that disagree about it. It'll probably be wise to give this question a few days before accepting any answer, as suggested here. (If you prefer that the question say "gown skirt", then please feel free to revert my edit, of course.)
    – Ben Kovitz
    Oct 25, 2019 at 21:52

4 Answers 4


The proper term is: skirt of her gown. [gown's skirt, would be acceptable, gown skirt is not really as this is not like a car door, where the first word becomes closely associated with the second]

All the verbs can be used two ways for the same meaning. That means you can say: hitch up the skirt or hitch the skirt up.

The best verbs here are: lift up, hitch up, hike up, pull up:

Be aware that hitch up and hike up are often associated with informality AND the fact of the action often starting at the waist, involving the waist or the upper body:

  • He hitched up his pants until the waistband was way above his waist.
  • She hiked up her bathing suit from the straps so much it looked ridiculous.

Sort of acceptable: hold up and pick up.

Generally, if you pick something up, it involves taking hold of an object in its entirety.

  • To pick the cat up off the floor. The entire cat is lifted off the floor.

  • Hold up is not great here, because hold up is used like this:

He held up a sign in front of his chest because he was hitchhiking.

It involves the entire object.

  • So do you think that "hike up" might be used here? (I mean with that warning...) Maybe the context will make it clear.... Which one out of all these sounds the best to you? (One out of all these or can all the phrasal verbs that you suggested work in this context?) Oct 25, 2019 at 21:33
  • @It'saboutEnglish How can you read what I wrote and then re-ask the same question? Anyway, "She hiked up her skirts and waded into the pond." at a time when we said skirts. And she was a pioneer woman.
    – Lambie
    Oct 25, 2019 at 21:40
  • A quick search on Google Books for "lifted up her gown" and "hiked up her gown" suggest that gown in this context might be correct. But I'm not sure—and I'm a native speaker! Can you maybe link to something that would make it easy for a reader to infer what you are saying first-hand, from real usage? (These searches seem to bring up a lot of romance novels and/or soft porn.)
    – Ben Kovitz
    Oct 25, 2019 at 21:41
  • A Google Books search for "gown skirt" suggests that this might be standard, too. But again, I don't really know.
    – Ben Kovitz
    Oct 25, 2019 at 21:46
  • 1
    "She lifted up her gown and moved towards him." sounds pornographic to me. I don't use google for this type of thing. Yes, you could say hiked up her gown but then the gown is not a **long, fluffy ball gown". She hiked up her gown(a single sheath dress) and waded into the water. You can't hike up a long, full-skirted ballgown. Gown skirt does not sound good to the ear. It is not like the car door or the window pane. In this context, the skirt of her gown sounds better in terms of the movement.
    – Lambie
    Oct 25, 2019 at 21:47

Not listed is "gathered up her skirts" which is what I would expect as a description of a woman in a formal ballgown/formal context. Here's an example from the fairytale Cinderella.

Why is skirt plural there? Because it's not just the skirt of the dress, but the several layers beneath--petticoat(s), slip, etc.

"Hiked up" or "hitched up" have a very strong implication of informality and specifically unladylike behavior.

  • What about "pull up" and "lift up"? Oct 26, 2019 at 6:54
  • 1
    I've read all the phrasal verbs that I used in my question here being used online... So do none of them sound natural to you? (Something that someone might use, not really showing "a ladylike" behavior, rather just acting normal). "Gown" was just an example, even a long skirt, not necessarily touching the ground could work just fine too. Oct 26, 2019 at 11:08
  • Well, yes, I agree. That said, you could have a long dress, and still gather up the skirt in your hand while going up/down the stairs.
    – Lambie
    Oct 26, 2019 at 14:43
  • But @Lambie will "gather up" be likely to be used in daily life conversations, or it is more likely to be found in writing? Oct 26, 2019 at 20:54
  • I can also provide hold up is used in this matter many times such as: books.google.com.tr/… Oct 30, 2019 at 10:35

Of your choices, lift will be the best

  • Pick up works for tools or items that you carry in your hand, or in a bag/container, but is a little "rough" when applied to a ball gown. This might work figuratively if the wearer of the dress is being clumsy or ungraceful.

  • Pull up is used to talk about the elastic or belted part of clothes, like at the waist or the top of socks/stockings. Pull up a ball gown would mean to raise the waist of it higher.

  • Hike up when used with a skirt means to tease erotically and show or get close to showing what's beneath it. This is typically a lewd connotation.

  • Hitch means to attach to something, like with pins or hooks. It's rough sounding as a common use is hitching trailers to cars/vehicles. Holding with hands doesn't count as a hitch.

  • Hold up means to keep at a elevated height. Lift up means specifically to transition from a low position to a high position, so it's more "action oriented" for a storytelling context, but otherwise fine.


To be exact in the meaning of holding some clothing up hike fits better into the situation yet it is less commonly used.


a book example:

others would hike up their gowns to expose themselves to her as well.

Lexico Dictionary: Pull or lift up (something, especially clothing).

Roy hiked up his trousers to reveal his socks.

Collins Dictionary: to pull or jerk up; hoist.

to hike up one's socks

Dictionary.com: to move up or rise, as out of place or position (often followed by up)

My shirt hikes up if I don't wear a belt.

Certain Edit:

Thanks to Lambie for reminding..


is mostly used to define a person carrying one not dressing one but in some cases it is also used as a part of dressing being hold too. Such as skirts... with a book example:

She had to hold her skirts up

a continues movement until she reaches to the end of those stairs with using "skirt" instead.


is appearently a good choise in this matter.

a book example:

she had to pull up her gown and undo her knickers again.

When we come to the reason why am I not using pick, hitch, lift:

Pick: is still not a good option cause it is an action that includes detaching something from somewhere by seperating it from it's touch to that location.

Hitch: is an action to move (something) into a different position with a jerk. Which is momentarily and not continues. It is a quick yet not a sustained move.

Lift: is used much yet it is still a momentarily action and not continues. To make it continues you may use it with hold. "Lift it up and hold it there!"

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