Brittany Higgins says she believes she attended a function in the dress she was wearing at the time of her alleged rape to "reclaim agency", admitting the garment did not spend six months under her bed.
The former Liberal Party staffer told the ACT Supreme Court on Thursday that the dress had been "like this weird anchor" under her bed for about half a year after Bruce Lehrmann allegedly raped her.
But when Lehrmann's barrister, Steven Whybrow, later showed her pictures of her wearing it at a party function within two months of the alleged March 2019 attack, Ms Higgins said she had "made a mistake".
Mr Whybrow began cross-examining Ms Higgins on Thursday, the third day of Lehrmann's jury trial.
Lehrmann, who worked with Ms Higgins for Senator Linda Reynolds at the time in question, has pleaded not guilty to a charge of engaging in sexual intercourse without consent.
He denies having any form of sex with Ms Higgins on a couch in the Parliament House office of Senator Reynolds, the defence industry minister at the time, after what has been called "a drunken night out".
Early on Thursday, Ms Higgins became emotional and choked back tears as she watched CCTV footage that showed her arriving at Parliament House with Lehrmann on the morning in question.
She was seen wearing a white cocktail dress, about which prosecutor Shane Drumgold SC asked.
Ms Higgins told Mr Drumgold that, following the alleged rape, she put the outfit in a plastic bag and stashed it under her bed, where it had stayed, "untouched, uncleaned", for "a good six months".
She indicated she spent that time weighing up whether she could pursue a police complaint against Lehrmann and continue her "dream" of working for the Liberal Party.
Ms Higgins said when it became clear the two things were not compatible, she "very symbolically" washed the dress and wore it one last time.
When Mr Whybrow later produced pictures of Ms Higgins wearing the dress at a Liberal Party function in May 2019, she said she was "just wrong" about the length of time it had been under her bed.
Asked why she had taken it to Perth when she travelled there to work on Senator Reynolds' election campaign three weeks after the alleged rape, Ms Higgins replied she thought she was "reclaiming my agency".
"It may sound ridiculous to you but it was kind of an empowerment thing," she told Mr Whybrow of donning the dress during her time working in Western Australia, having previously worn it during "the worst thing in the world".
Ms Higgins also conceded, during cross-examination, that she had been lunching one day in April 2019, when she had previously told the court she had been having a panic attack in a bathroom at work.
But she insisted a panic attack did occur soon after the alleged rape, saying she had "conflated dates".
Ms Higgins spent all of Thursday on the witness stand, from which she also detailed being summoned to an April 2019 meeting with Senator Reynolds and the politician's chief of staff, Fiona Brown.
It occurred in the same room where Lehrmann had allegedly raped her a week earlier.
Ms Higgins said the choice of venue felt like a "scare tactic", describing how she felt pressured not to pursue a police complaint because of a public perception the Liberal Party had a problem with women.
She later denied Mr Whybrow's suggestion she had hoped to inflict maximum damage on the party by taking her allegations to the media early last year.
Ms Higgins said her "fundamental" goal had been to expose cultural issues and cover-ups at Parliament House, adding that these were not confined to her complaint about Lehrmann.
"I still have a love for them," she said of the Liberal Party, telling Mr Whybrow she had gone to the media thinking she would do interviews with two journalists and then "disappear" from public view.
Cross-examination of Ms Higgins is set to continue on Friday, when the trial enters its fourth day.