(8 of 10)
The reappearance of what the tabloids would inevitably call the Love Dress brought back one of the most salacious bits of costuming in this whole drama. According to sources close to both Tripp and Lewinsky, Tripp had told Starr of a night last October when she stayed over at Monica's apartment, back in the frothy days before Monica knew that she had a prosecutor in her future. She showed Tripp around the Watergate apartment and showed her a picture, snapped by an official White House photographer, of Lewinsky standing in a dark blue dress with the President of the United States. Funny that it should be that particular dress. Monica had joked with Linda that she had saved it as a souvenir of an encounter with Clinton. Do you want to see it? she asked Linda, taking her over to a walk-in closet and pointing to it. See, there it is, Monica said. But Linda is a conservative sort, something of a prude, her friends say, an unlikely confidant for so passionately confiding a lady as Monica, and she wasn't interested in looking too closely in the dim light of the crowded closet.
Tripp would be plenty interested soon enough: a month later, in November, Tripp telephoned Lewinsky at work to say she was short on clothes and wanted to borrow some of Monica's dresses. Could she come by the apartment, Tripp asked, be let in by the doorman and pick a few up? Monica was reluctant. "Don't you trust me?" asked Tripp. Tripp's irrepressible friend, literary agent Lucianne Goldberg, says she consulted with her client Mark Fuhrman, the controversial L.A.P.D. cop, about how to test for DNA on a dress. The Lewinsky camp refers to this as the attempted Watergate break-in (Part 2). Tripp associates say that story is not true.
In January, based on Tripp's advice, Starr's investigators scoured Lewinsky's closet for anything resembling such a dress but came up empty-handed. It turns out that Monica had given it to her mother for safekeeping, which helps explain why it was so important that Marcia Lewis get the same immunity as her daughter, lest she be liable for obstruction of justice. It now falls to the lab experts at FBI headquarters in Washington to see what evidence the dress might yield. Forensic experts say the passage of time, or even dry cleaning, would not necessarily eliminate traces of DNA. It doesn't take long to determine whether the stain exists, but actually matching it to someone's genes could take weeks.
It was always possible that Clinton would wind up reversing course and confessing all in some dramatic national address set to a full string section. Naturally this scenario is favored by those who think it would help him. A TIME/CNN survey last week found that if Clinton were to make a speech in which he confessed to the affair and to lying about it, and then apologized to the American people, 69% believe that Starr's investigation should end right there. But such an admission bears no resemblance to anything the President has ever done--not to the explanations of his draft card or his real estate dealings or his extracurricular affections.