The Blue Dress/White Dress Thing Has Maybe Been Explained (But Who Even Knows In This Crazy World)


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By now, you would have had at least 146 people on your Facebook or Twitter shove this photo into your feed, asking you what colour this dress is.


The photo came from a Tumblr post: ‘guys please help me – is this dress white and gold, or blue and black? Me and my friends can’t agree and we are freaking the fuck out’.

It was picked up by Buzzfeed, who polled their readers; at time of publishing, 74% see the dress as white with gold detail, and 26% see it as blue with black.

100% are going crazy on Twitter fighting about it, for the most part under the #dressgate hashtag.

The whole thing is ridiculous, and it won’t stop. And I’m frightened.

What Colour Do You See?

Disclaimer: I see the dress as consistently blue, with browny-gold fringing/stripes. It is such a definitive colour for me that I dismissed the Tumblr post as a very well-played prank. I closed the screen and kept working until I heard loud voices in the corner of my office: five people were crowded over a computer, and four of them saw white.

At this point, much like Taylor Swift, I lost my mind.

She didn’t stop there:

The dress is tearing us all apart. A photo posted by Alex Goldschmidt (@alexandergold) on

After posting about it on Facebook, some of my friends who initially saw white have started seeing blue. 

Meanwhile, a Vice writer who initially saw blue began seeing white after an hour.

Then there was this Vine. 

Using Photoshop, I’ve picked out the blue using the colour dropper tool: this blue, to me, is through the whole dress (minus the browny/goldy fringing); it is darker in parts where it is in shadow, and lighter in parts where the light hits — but, in general, BLUE.


According to a small sample of tested colleagues, those who see the dress as white and gold can see the blue in that square — a colour they don’t associate with the dress at all. The dress to them is white, but what white looks like in a shadow. Blue or grey-tinged, perhaps, but undeniably white.

Junkee contributor Clem Bastow, who also sees blue, had the same idea as me. Her blue is bluer than my blue, but still, it is blue.


A photo posted by Clem Bastow (@clambistro) on

Meanwhile, the original Tumblr user who ruined today for you has uploaded a second picture of the dress.

It is very, very blue, and very, very black.


So What The Shit Is Happening?

The reason the colour is up for interpretation may have something to do with how the photo was taken: the background is very bright, and the dress in shade — coupling this with some whacked-out colour correction, our eyes are making up for missing information.

As for why people are seeing it differently, the best explanation I found came from another Tumblr user, who lays out clearly why I am right and almost all of you are wrong: my cones are higher functioning. My cones, and Taylor Swift’s cones.

It’s me and Taylor Swift against the world.


Dr. Jay Neitz, PhD, who has been working in color vision research for 35 years, was interviewed by Vice and has another explanation. He believes it comes down to the colour of the lighting around the dress, which affects the “color constancy” that we all share. “If I go into a room and I turn on a light that’s completely red, the white things will reflect all that red light,” he says. “But if I also have a red thing, then that will reflecting the red light, too. [sic]”

So: both things will look red, even if one’s white. Of course, this doesn’t explain why some people see one thing and others see something else. But in any case, here’s your costume for this year’s Halloween:


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