White and Gold/Blue and Black Dress?

News: A dress that appeared white and gold to some viewers and blue and black to others captivated the Internet.

On 25 February 2015, an image of a striped dress that appeared to be white and gold in color to some viewers, but blue and black to others, began to circulate on the Tumblr social blogging network. As the popularity of the image increased, the debate over what it actually displayed intensified — according to an informal poll, roughly a quarter of the people who viewed the image believed the dress to be blue and black, while three quarters believed it was clearly white and gold:

The picture was initially posted to Tumblr by a 21-year-old singer named Caitlin McNeill, who lives on the tiny Scottish island of Colonsay and noted that the dress shown in the picture was worn at a friend’s wedding by the mother of the bride:

McNeill explained that the picture was a dress was worn to her friends’ wedding. In the photo, some people see the dress as white and gold while others see it as blue and black.

The dress was worn by the bride’s mother. McNeill and her friends first realized there was something different about the dress when the mother sent her daughter the now-famous photo.

“What happened was two of my close friends were actually getting married and the mother of the bride took a photo of the dress to send to her daughter,” McNeill explained. “When my friend showed the dress to her fiancee, they disagreed on the color.”

The bride then posted the picture on Facebook and her friends continued to debate the color of the dress.

Fortunately for the Internet, there actually is an answer to this color conundrum: The highlighted bit of the dress’s darker top stripe reads through an eyedropper tool as hex code #806D48, which is a gold-based tone. However, a lighter portion of the sleeve (described by many as white) reads as hex code #A0A1B9, a heavily blue-tinged color:

On 26 February 2015, a Twitter user tried to claim that the photograph was actually a “sight test” that indicated any given viewer’s emotional state. The user did not, however, explain why such a “test” was being administered or what the ultimate purpose (aside from garnering retweets) might be:

Although the opposite theory (i.e., that colors can influence emotions) has been studied, we turned up no evidence that the theory had been tested in the opposite direction (i.e., that perception of colors can be an indicator of one’s emotional state). The Twitter user in question possibly misinterpreted the widespread belief that colors affect emotions in taking advantage of a viral phenomenon.

Ultimately, it’s far less likely that the image is a mood diagnostic rather than a mild jape involving the power of suggestion. Or, as the Washington Post noted, “The answer has something to do with science. And eyes. And color and lights and color balances. And Photoshop. And many other matters that over-intellectualize something as delightfully absurd as a color-changing dress. Some things don’t need to be explained.”

Last updated:   26 February 2015

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