What Color Is This Dress.

The Dress / What Color Is This Dress?

Part of a series on Optical Illusion. [View Related Entries]

Updated May 13, 2024 at 01:42PM EDT by Adam.

Added Feb 26, 2015 at 08:51PM EST by amanda b..

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#TheDress, also known as What Color Is This Dress?, refers to a Tumblr post in which viewers were asked to identify the color of a dress, which appeared to be either white and gold or black and blue. The question sparked an Internet-wide debate in late February 2015, launching the competing hashtags "#WhiteAndGold" and "#BlackAndBlue."


On February 25th, 2015, Tumblr user swiked[1] posted a photograph of a dress asking the science side of Tumblr to help identify its colors, noting that her friends were torn between it being white and gold or black and blue. Within 48 hours, the post gained over 400,000 notes.

picture of The Dress that can appear as either black and blue or white and gold depending on the lightening


On February 26th, BuzzFeed[2] posted a poll asking readers to decide what color the dress really was. Within 10 hours the poll received more than 1.8 million votes, with 72% selecting "white and gold" (shown below).

So let's settle this: what colors are this dress? 72% 1.3M votes White and Gold 2 8% 491.6K votes Blue and Black

Later that evening, BuzzFeed published a second post[7] revealing that the dress was actually blue after finding it available for purchase on United Kingdom-based online retailer Roman Originals,[8] which listed it as a "Royal-Blue Lace Detail Bodycon Dress" (shown below).

Royal-Blue Lace Detail Bodycon Dress £50.00 SIZE UICE Choose your Size ADD TO BAG > This amazing lace dress will be your new favourite! Cut to flatter this dress is bang on trend with it's beautful lace detail Wear with your favourite heels and a clutch Style: 70931 Fabric: 68% Viscose 27% Polyamide 5% Elastane Care: Dry Clean Only Sleeve Length: Knee Length Dresses * . Length:NIA

On February 27th, Redditor AskScienceModerator submitted a post about the dress to the /r/AskScience[15] subreddit, where experts from a variety of fields offered explanations of the color perception phenomenon. In the first 12 hours, it gained over 2700 votes (84% upvoted), 3,600 comments and reached the front page of the social news site. Meanwhile, Redditor Sooprman posted an image of the Black and Blue Power Rangers to /r/Funny[16] with the accompanying caption "The White Ranger / and Gold Ranger," garnering upwards of 3,000 votes (86% upvoted) in the first five hours (shown below).


On the same day, XKCD webcomic author, Randall Munroe, used his Friday update to illustrate the differences that background lighting effects had on the perception of the dress' color and included the following statement as the comic's alt-text:

“This white-balance illusion hit so hard because it felt like someone had been playing through the Monty Hall scenario and opened their chosen door, only to find there was unexpectedly disagreement over whether the thing they’d revealed was a goat or a car.”[21]

In the coming days, several news sites published articles about the dress debate, including Gawker,[3] Wired,[4] CNBC,[5] Business Insider,[6] Mashable[17] and Time.[18] Several celebrities also commented on the dress on Twitter including Taylor Swift,[9] Melissa Joan Hart,[10] Kim Kardashian,[11] Anna Kendrick,[12] Ellen DeGeneres[13] and many more.[14]

Taylor Swift @taylorswift13 Following I don't understand this odd dress debate and | feel like it's a trick somehow I'm confused and scared, PS it's OBVIOUSLY BLUE AND BLACK RETWEETS FAVORITES 58,205 82,513 6:14 PM - 26 Feb 2015 Anna Kendrick @AnnaKendrick47 Following If that's not White and Gold the universe is falling apart. Seriously what is happening???? わ ★ RETWEETS FAVORITES 7,792 16,699 7:52 PM - 26 Feb 2015 Kim Kardashian West @KimKardashian Following What color is that dress? I see white & gold. Kanye sees black & blue, who is color blind? わ£7 RETWEETS FAVORITES 3,728 6,090 禸隘 申 8:41 PM 26 Feb 2015


On Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, users chimed in on the color of the garment using the hashtag "#TheDress," with the opposing sides using the accompanying hashtags "#WhiteAndGold" or "#BlackAndBlue." Within 12 hours, #TheDress had reached over 400,000 tweets, and #WhiteAndGold lead with a ratio of 3:1 tweets over #BlackAndBlue. By the end of 24 hours, tweets containing #TheDress had jumped to over 1.2 million while the competing sides maintained a similar ratio.

Tweets per day: #TheDress, #whiteAndGold, and #BlackAnd Blue January 28th February 27th 500K 400K 300K 200K 100K 1/28 1/31 2/3 2/6 2/9 2/12 2/15 2/18 2/21 2/23 ANALYTICS BYTOPSY #TheDress 404,022 tWhiteAndGold 215,669 #BlackAndBlue 71,792

Scientific Explanation

Many experts have cited the color constancy[19] feature of the human color perception system, which attempts to make colors appear consistent under varying types of illumination, as being responsible for the different colors identified in the photograph.[4][20] If the viewer assumes a white illuminant, the dress appears blue and black, but if a blue illuminant is assumed, the dress appears white and gold.

#StopAbuseAgainstWomen Twitter Ad

On March 6th, 2015, the Twitter feed for the South African branch of The Salvation Army[22] posted an advertisement made by the creative agency Ireland/Davenport as part a "#StopAbuseAgainstWomen" campaign, which featured a battered woman wearing a white and gold dress with the caption "Why is it so hard / to see black and blue" (shown below). In less than 24 hours, the tweet gained over 7,300 retweets and 3,200 favorites.

* Follow TheSalvationArmySA @SalvationArmySA Why is it so hard to see black and blue? One in 6 women are victims of abuse. #StopAbuseAgainstWomen WHY IS IT SO HARD TO SEE BLACK AND BLUE 7.335 3247F RETWEETS FAVORITES 5:08 AM -6 Mar 2015

That morning, ABC News[23] published an interview with Ireland/Davenport creative director Wihan Meerhloz, who stated that the agency was attempting to use the memes popularity to raise awareness about violence against women:

"We wanted to take advantage of the hype of the meme to spread awareness for something important. Our creative team brainstormed ways to send a greater message about overlooked violence against women using the dress."

Meanwhile, Redditor DavidTheHumanzee posted the tweet to the /r/AdPorn[24] subreddit, where it gathered upwards of 400 votes (87% upvoted) in the first seven hours. In the coming days, several news sites published articles about the ad, including The Guardian,[25] The Huffington Post,[26] The Washington Post[27] and The Daily Dot.[28]

Various Examples

The Blue & Black power ranger was always my favorite 0 BLACKANDWHTEAND BLUEDRESS GOLD DRESS hits blunt* what colour is the dress?


On July 8th, 2015, Twitter user @totallymendes[29] tweeted a photograph of a woman's high-heeled shoe next to two bottles of nail polish in different shades of violet, asking “which color matches the shoe best?” (shown below). Within a week, the tweet gained over 9,000 favorites and 8,200 retweets.

a @totallymendes Jul8 WHICH COLOR MATCHES THE SHOES THE BEST iew photo ☆ 8.5K

The same day, Twitter users began debating which nail polish color matched the shoe with the hashtag #TheShoe,[31] with many comparing the image to #TheDress (shown below). According to the Twitter analytics site Topsy,[32] the hashtag was mentioned more than 62,500 times over the next week.

巴snoe jb morrissey @OFFICIALJBPINK6 Follow so it's neither, thanks for your help microsoft paint program #theshoe 10:34 PM 8 Jul 2015 わ 1,547 ★ 1,579 Delete “Twitter" ng "Twitter" will also delete its data. elete Cance Kat @katemclendonn Follow me cause I ain't about do to that whole what color is the dress thing but with a shoe #theshoe 10:34 PM 8 Jul 2015 4 다593 ★397 "으 Follow WHICH COLOR MATCHES THE SHOES THE BEST Bryan Cransto Empire @EmpireFOX Follow Forget nail polish, Cookie's FUR matches #theshoe the best! #Empire 1:28 AM 10 Jul 2015 165 ★ 430

On July 10th, the science news blog Inside Science[30] published an article explaining the optical illusion, claiming that people who fail to see two different color bottles lacked "the peripheral color vision to reliably distinguish between the two shades." Additionally, the article contained an analysis of the RGB values in the image, which determined that the shoe's hue was slightly closer to the polish on the right (shown below).

Colors of #TheShoe By Inside Science News Service R: 196 Purple G:45 B: 169 R: 255 G:0 B: 184 R: 255 Middle of #TheShoe G: 21 B: 228 Image from Twitter; @totallymendes

What Color Is This Purse?

Echoes of #TheDress occurred on October 4th, 2016, when @whyofcorso[33] posted a picture of a Kate Spade purse she had just bought.

Follow cors o @whyofcorso Everyone say hello to my new baby kat de

User @Mr_Bingo_Little[34] commented "White. Daring." to which @whyofcorso replied that the bag was blue, sparking discussion on whether the bag is white or blue. Though the bag is confirmed to be "mystic blue,"[35] debate ensued as Twitter users argued and made jokes about the color of the bag. The controversy became a Twitter moment[36] the next day. That day, it was covered by The Daily Dot[37] and Mic.[38]

Motion 2 Strike FEAR @Motion ToStrike Follow @whyofcorso that bag is whiter than an improv show audience RETWEETSU 158 4:01 PM-4 Oct 2016 LIKES 997 158997 scheduled content @case face Follow @whyofcorso this is a nice white purse, corso RETWEETS LIKES 18 140 4:31 PM-4 Oct 2016 18140 Sarah Orsborn Follow @erniebufflo @delphoxglove @whyofcorso I think the purse mystery has to do with the way the phone corrected the white balance of the pic. RETWEETS LIKES 10 116 4:49 PM-4 Oct 2016 10116

Yanny or Laurel

Yanny or Laurel refers to the debate surrounding an audio clip of a voice saying a word. Some people claim they hear the word "Yanny" and others the word "Laurel." The debate about the clip spread in a similar fashion to #TheDress.

2023 Twitter Resurgence

On February 26th, 2023, one day after the eight-year anniversary of the original dress post, Twitter[39] user MUNCHRIH tweeted an image of the same dress halfway in the sunlight and half in the shade, showing the two variants discussed in the initial internet debate. Over the course of 24 hours, the tweet received over 21.1 million views, 216,000 likes, 16,000 retweets and 11,000 quote retweets, subsequently going viral and causing a resurgence in "Dressgate" that day (shown below).

jay ☆ STREAM LIKE..? @MUNCHRIH. Follow this changes up the game fr... 12:34 PM. Feb 26, 2023

Arrest Of Keir Johnston

In July of 2023, Keir Johnston, the man who purchased The Dress, was arrested for attempting to murder his wife Grace Johnston after years of violent behavior, including strangling her. On May 13th, 2024, he pled guilty to the charges.[40]

Search Interest

External References

[1] Tumblr (via Wayback Machine) – swiked: guys please help me

[2] Buzzfeed – What Colors Are This Dress?

[3] Gawker – What Color Is This Goddamn Dress?

[4] WIRED – The Science on The Dress Color

[5] CNBC – The Dress That Broke The Internet

[6] Business Insider – The internet is losing its composure over this dress that might be white and gold or black and blue

[7] Buzzfeed – We May Have Found The “Which Color Is This Dress?” And It’s BLUE

[8] Roman Originals Website Product Page for The Dress – Royal-Blue Lace Detail Bodycon Dress

[9] Twitter (via Wayback Machine) – @taylorswift13 – 8:14 PM – 26 Feb 2015

[10] Instagram – @melissajoanhart – The Dress

[11] Twitter – @KimKardashian – 10:41 PM – 26 Feb 2015

[12] Twitter – @AnnaKendrick47 – 9:52 PM – 26 Feb 2015

[13] Twitter- @TheEllenShow – 8:04 PM – 26 Feb 2015

[14] Pop Sugar – Celebrities on #TheDress

[15] Reddit – /r/AskScience/ – What color is the dress? Why do some…

[16] Reddit – /r/funny/ – The new White and Gold Power Rangers

[17] Mashable – What color is this dress

[18] Time – Everyone on the Internet Wants to Know What Color This Dress Is

[19] Wikipedia – Color Constancy

[20] Reddit – color constancy

[21] XKCD – Dress Color

[22] Twitter – @SalvationArmySA

[23] ABC News – The Dress Illusion Challenges Violence Against Women in Salvation Army PSA

[24] Reddit – The Salvation Army uses the dress meme

[25] The Guardian – The Dress meme adapted for #StopAbuseAgainstWomen ad

[26] The Huffington Post – Salvation Army Uses #TheDress

[27] Washington Post – Salvation Army puts #thedress in a new light

[28] Daily Dot – The Salvation Army used #TheDress

[29] Twitter (via Wayback Machine) – @totallymendes

[30] Inside Science – The Science Behind #TheShoe

[31] Twitter – #TheShoe

[32] Topsy – #TheShoe

[33] Twitter – @whyofcorso

[34] Twitter – @whyofcorso

[35] Kate Spade – cedar street hayden

[36] Twitter – Need another 'The Dress'? Then what color is this purse?

[37] The Daily Dot – This purse is definitely not white, but don't tell Twitter that

[38] Mic – What color is this bag? The internet is divided on if it's blue or white.

[39] Twitter – MUNCHRIH

[40] MoneyControl – Man behind viral blue-black/white-gold dress pleads guilty to strangling wife

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