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Is the black and blue dress actually white and gold?

The debate over the color of a certain dress took the internet by storm back in 2015. A washed-out photograph of a dress was posted online, with some people insisting it was blue and black while others saw white and gold. This disagreement sparked fierce arguments and became a viral phenomenon, with millions weighing in on #TheDress. So what colors was the dress really? Let’s take a closer look at this puzzling optical illusion.

The Original Dress Photo

The original photograph was posted on Tumblr by a woman named Cecilia Bleasdale. The picture showed a bodycon lace dress that was being sold by the British retailer Roman Originals. The poor lighting and color balance in the photo made it difficult to discern the true colors of the dress. Some saw the dress as blue with black lace trimming, while others were convinced it was white with gold lace.

Explanations for the Differing Perceptions

There are several explanations as to why people perceived the colors so differently:

  • Individual differences in color perception – We all have slight variations in how our eyes and brains process color. This means we may categorize hues differently.
  • Visual cues and assumptions – Our brains make assumptions about color based on lighting cues. Some assumed the dress was overexposed white, while others saw it as in shadow blue.
  • Device and screen differences – Screens have varying color balances, so the device used to view the image impacted perception.
  • Optical illusions – The contrasting lace trimming may create visual effects that skew color appearance.

Overall, the image was simply ambiguous enough for people to see it in different ways based on their visual systems and cognitive biases. The fierce debate revealed just how differently two people can view the exact same photograph.

Confirming the Actual Colors

So how could anyone confirm the dress’s true colors? Here are a few of the ways it was determined:

  • Roman Originals, the retailer, stated it was royal blue with black lace trim.
  • Other photos of the same dress illuminated better showed blue/black.
  • People who saw the actual dress in person confirmed it looked blue and black.
  • When overexposed, the dress showed as white/gold, revealing its true colors.

Through these methods of verification, it became clear the dress was indisputably blue and black in color. The overexposed photo had simply distorted the hues to the point where assumptions kicked in and created a perceptual divide.

Memes, Parodies, and Viral Spread

The dress debate took the internet by storm, sparking endless memes, parodies, and imitations. Here are some of the ways it rapidly spread:

  • Celebrities and public figures weighed in, driving engagement through social media.
  • The hashtags #TheDress and #WhiteandGold vs #BlackandBlue trended hugely.
  • Online quizzes and games let people test their own perceptions.
  • Edits of the dress revealed other split color interpretations.
  • Brands created ads and campaigns piggybacking on the viral sensation.

The dress photo was viewed and shared across Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, forums, blogs, and more. The simplicity of the debate made it highly engaging and sharable. People just couldn’t resist giving their opinion on the mysterious garment.

Lasting Impact and Analysis

While the craze eventually died down, the dress left some lasting impacts:

  • Demonstrated individual differences in visual perception.
  • Showed the power of illusions and assumptions in color judgment.
  • Set a record as the most-viewed image on Flickr at the time.
  • Made Roman Originals’ sales of the dress skyrocket.
  • Created a cultural touchpoint referring to contextual perception.

The dress meme also triggered serious scientific study into the phenomena of color constancy. Researchers analyzed what visual and neural factors might cause such disparate color interpretations of the same image. The innocuous photo thus opened the door to compelling research questions about how human vision works.

Ongoing Relevance

The dress debate has remained a cultural reference point even years later. Some examples of its ongoing relevance include:

  • Still referenced in articles and discussions of visual perception.
  • Taught in textbooks as an example of individual differences.
  • Inspired research into evolutionary perception, linguistics, cognition and more.
  • Demonstrated the potential virality of visual illusions.
  • Showed how simple images can capture collective attention.

The dress may not be as hotly discussed today, but it remains a touchstone for issues around color, contrast, ambiguity, perception, and online sharing. Looking back, it truly capsulated an internet phenomenon of the times.


While definitive evidence confirmed the dress was in fact blue and black, the Great Dress Debate of 2015 demonstrated a classic perceptual paradox. A seemingly basic image triggered fierce arguments because of the different ways our eyes and brains process color. The viral sensation revealed insightful lessons about human vision while capturing a cultural zeitgeist. So while the dress itself may have faded from memory, its legacy lives on as an unforgettable example of contrasting interpretations, the power of illusions, and the subjectivity of seeing color.

Perceived Color Actual Color
White with gold lace Royal blue with black lace
Blue with brown lace Royal blue with black lace