Was the dress black and blue or gold and white? The two-tone dress, left, alongside an ivory and black version. In a different photo posted online, half of people saw the blue and black dress as white and gold (AP photo / Tumblr)
Was the dress black and blue or gold and white?
Lexile

It's the dress that's beating the Internet black and blue. Or should that be gold and white?

Friends and co-workers worldwide are debating. What are the true hues of a royal blue dress with black lace? To many an eye, the dress transforms in one photograph into gold and white. Optometry experts are calling the photo a one-in-a-million shot. It captures how people's brains perceive color. And how we process contrast in dramatically different ways.

"This photo provides the best test I've ever seen for how the process of color correction works in the brain,'" said Daniel Hardiman-McCartney. He is the clinical adviser to Britain's College of Optometrists. "So many people look at the same photo and see two sets of such dramatically different colors."

The photo was taken in February before a wedding. It was shot on the remote Scottish island of Colonsay. Guests at the wedding were perplexed. In one photo of the dress being worn by the mother of the bride, the clearly blue and black-striped garment transformed into gold and white. But only in that single photo. And only for around half of the viewers.

The debate spread. Soon it hit the Internet.

One such wedding guest was musician and singer Caitlin McNeill. She posted the photo to her Tumblr account.

"Guys please help me. Is this dress white and gold, or blue and black? Me and my friends can't agree."

She's consistently seen gold.

One of her friends, Alana MacInnes, saw gold and white for the first hour. Then she saw black and blue.

The website Buzzfeed was among the first to call McNeill. It posted more than a half-dozen stories on the image.

On Twitter, #TheDress and variants surged to the top of trending lists globally within hours.

The entertainment community even chimed in.

Taylor Swift saw the dress was "obviously" blue and black.

"What's the matter with u guys, it's white and gold," countered Julianne Moore.

Kim Kardashian reported she was seeing gold. But to husband Kanye West, it was solidly black and blue. "Who is color blind?" Kardashian asked the twitterati.

The answer, says Hardiman-McCartney, is that every viewer seeing either set of colors is right.

He says the bar-code style of the dress, combined with the strongly yellow-toned backlighting in the one photo, provides the brain a rare chance. The brain can "choose" which of the dress' two primary colors should be seen in detail. Those who subconsciously seek detail in the many horizontal black lines convert them to a golden hue. So the blue disappears into a blown-out white, he said. Others whose brains focus on the blue part of the dress see the photo as the black-and-blue reality.

"There's no correct way to perceive this photograph. It sits right on the cusp, or balance, of how we perceive the color of a subject versus the surrounding area," he said. "It just shows how your brain chooses to see the image."

The photo produced a deluge of media calls to the Tumblr reporter, 21-year-old McNeill. She calls the phone calls "more than I've received in the entirety of the rest of my life combined." She says the photographer is the mother of the bride. The mother never wanted the publicity.

There's one clear winner in the debate. English dress retailer Roman Originals. It reported a million hits on its sales site in the first 18 hours following the photo's worldwide distribution.

"I can officially say that this dress is royal blue with black lace trimming," said Michele Bastock. She is design director at Roman Originals.

The color debate came as a surprise, Bastock said. She said staff members had no idea that the dress, when shot in that singularly peculiar light, might be perceived in a totally different color scheme. Not until they arrived to work. They had to field hundreds of emails, calls and social media posts, They, too, split almost 50-50 on the photo's true colors.

All agreed, however, the dress for the Birmingham, England-based retailer was likely to become their greatest seller. The chain's website headlined its product as "#TheDress now back in stock debate now."

"We went to the computers and had a look. And some members of the team saw ivory and gold. I see a royal blue all the time," she said.

"It's an enigma ...

But we are grateful."

Critical thinking challenge: Why did this dress cause a sensation on social media?

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COMMENTS (70)
  • AlexisSS-1
    3/06/2015 - 02:27 p.m.

    This article is about the black and blue or white and gold dress situation. Some people see black and white while others see white and gold. The dress was worn at a wedding and the picture was taken of it. After the picture was taken the bride was fairly confused on the color and asked her tumblr followers. after that it was all over the internet. The hashtag #TheDress was on the popular list on the social media, Twitter. Celebrities and non - celebrities were all over it.
    I personally saw the dress as white and gold and then about one our later I saw that it was blue and black. I think that it has to do with the lighting the dress is put in,

  • aliciac-Hyl
    3/07/2015 - 07:15 p.m.

    I asked my sister she said white and gold. When I asked my grandma she said blue and gold. I myself saw blue and gold. Weird, huh? I think my sister was focusing more on the black then the blue. I have just one question for whoever took the picture, why didn't you have the dress cover the whole picture frame? I mean if you did it wouldn't be two different colors for people than the actual dress colors. That's what I would do and "my" dress wouldn't be an Internet sensation. :( :)

  • AbigailG-Kut
    3/09/2015 - 08:56 a.m.

    I agree i knew that what colors you see is what you see in your brain. People in school have been saying that what color you see is on your stress level, if you saw blue and black you were stressed. If you saw white and gold you werent as stressed. i think its blue and black.

  • HannahB-Kut
    3/09/2015 - 09:00 a.m.

    If on a apple product- (iphone,ipad,ipod.) You can invert the colors. When this happens while having the dress on you screen it will be pure white and gold when you turn it off its blue and black. Personally I think that this debate has gone way to far, its just a dress. Sure, it can mess with your eyes and it bothers you as you try and figure it out, but its just a dress. I think the internet is a way to express peoples opinion, i also think its great to connect with others i find it annoying when viral stuff like this gets more attention than anything else. For example if someone had cancer and fought through it, and the original sing What Does The Fox Say came out people would pay more attention on that.

  • Sam-Kut
    3/09/2015 - 10:51 a.m.

    i saw blue and black when the dress was by the white and black one but when i saw the littler picture of it i saw gold and white is that just my eyes am i really BLIND i hope not but i m pretty sure it is the way you look at it Kanye West he has some problems though but the dress looks really cool though

  • Alegoman87
    3/09/2015 - 11:12 a.m.

    This dress caused a sensation because humans are curios. So since we are curios we need to see the other sides of story and defend what we think is right that is why this dress ccahsed a sensation on the internet.

  • Jadon1244
    3/09/2015 - 01:17 p.m.

    it was the lighting in the background.nobody knew that it would go viral.The dress was a sensation.I thought it was white and gold . It changes colors. It is a tricky picture but the dress was truly blue and black .......




    ~to me its just a ugly dress~

  • aaronf-Bin
    3/09/2015 - 01:18 p.m.

    I think this is a mix-up.....
    according to the story there is a dress that people think is all kinds of colors..................
    I think this is a hard story...

  • sebastian.williams48
    3/09/2015 - 01:19 p.m.

    When I first saw the dress I was like this is not real. I couldn't believe what was in front of my eyes. Your brain knows when there is an illusion because of its color strong points.

  • emrar-boo
    3/10/2015 - 11:31 a.m.

    This dress caused a sensation on social media because there was a huge debate whether it was blue and black or white and gold. People didn't understand how this dress could possibly change colors like that.

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