What color is this dress? Photo sparks worldwide debate, scientific explanation


If you’re on social media, or know people that are, you may have already seen this dress.

What color do you think it is?

Swiked posted the photo on Tumblr Wednesday. Some people see the dress as gold and white, while others see blue and black.

Buzzfeed ran an online poll that had over 1 million people enter what they see. At the time of this post, the poll showed 73 percent see gold and white.

Even Taylor Swift commented on the dress via Twitter. Swift sees blue and black.

The dress is made by Roman Originals in England is blue and black. However, Buzzfeed has a plausible explanation that the photo was taken by a camera phone with poor lighting which “casts the whites in a blue tone and mutes the gold to a darker color.”

Even Adobe jumps into the fray, retweeting a post from @hopetaylorphoto. Debate over?

CNN’s Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen gives a scientific explanation for why some see gold in the dress and others blue. It’s because of the tiny cones in the back of our eyeballs perceive colors differently depending upon our genes.

The cones in our retinas – the fine layer of nerve tissue that lines the back of our eyes – detect the blue, green, and red in an image. The cones and your brain mix those colors to make other colors.

“Ninety-nine percent of the time, we’ll see the same colors,” Dr. Julia Haller, the Opthalmologist-in-Chief at Wills Eye Hospital in Philadelphia said. “But the picture of this dress seems to have tints that hit the sweet spot that’s confusing to a lot of people.”

The very top section of the dress appears gold to some people, but black to others. This makes sense to Haller.

“One of the typical color confusions we see is blue/yellow,” she says. “So perhaps in this dress, the black has a bit of blue and the gold has a bit of yellow.”

A heated debate took place in the KHON2 newsroom. Some even claimed to see white and gold upon one viewing, then blue and black in the next. So Howard Dashefsky and Marisa Yamane examined the photo on KHON2 News at 9:

Here’s another video with even more debate, plus a photo of the owner wearing the dress in different lighting:

The Associated Press reports that the photo produced a deluge of media calls Friday to the Tumblr reporter, 21-year-old Caitlin McNeill, who calls the seemingly endless phone calls “more than I’ve received in the entirety of the rest of my life combined.” She says the photographer, who is also the mother of the bride, never wanted the publicity.

There’s one clear winner: English dress retailer Roman Originals, which has 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 the company’s design director Michele Bastock.

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 Friday anyway, when they arrived to work 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-ever seller. The chain’s website Friday headlined its product as “#TheDress now back in stock – debate now.”

“Straightaway, 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.”

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Trending Stories