Dirty Laundry

Aug. 4 1998 3:30 AM

Dirty Laundry

Bill! The answer to your predicament is at the video store.

Stylish New Yorkers have for years mocked D.C. for its indifference to fashion. This week is our revenge: a city obsessed with a dress. (A fashion question: Why would Monica wear a cocktail dress to work? Is that what was meant when they said she dressed inappropriately? She confused an evening out with a busy day at the office?)

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When I turned on the television Sunday morning I saw, in huge white letters on a black background, "The DRESS." Sadly, it turned out to be a Tylenol ad about a bride and her wedding dress.

David Plotz David Plotz

David Plotz is Slate's editor at large. He's the author of The Genius Factory and Good Book.

Of all the salacious, disgusting, far-fetched notions I have heard about the dress, my Slate colleague Emily Yoffe has the most absurd: the Cinematic Dress. This is a three-stage excuse for Clinton, based on the plot of recent movies.

Stage 1: Primary Colors. Clinton denies that the stain is his semen. Then, as the Clintonian character did in Primary Colors, he switches the blood sample. A loyal aide like Bruce Lindsey would take a bullet for him. Surely he would take a pinprick.

Stage 2: If that fails, Presumed Innocent, a movie in which the hero is accused of murder when his wife saves his semen and spreads it on a woman she murders. Clinton might claim that Hillary surreptitiously collected his semen and smeared it on the dress.

When that fails, Stage 3: There's Something About Mary. This I can't bear to explain.

A final note. The circumlocution about the semen-stained dress has been incredible. The New York Times has managed to work up the courage to use "semen," and I heard Newsweek's Mike Isikoff say the word on television (though not without a noticeable gulp). Most other media have resorted to "DNA-stained" or "stained with genetic material"--phrases that are magnificently vague.

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