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Dear Internet: stop talking about whether that color changing dress is white and gold or blue and black

Updated on April 8, 2015

Why are people so concerned with this dress?

Apparently, some famous person wore a dress and people are arguing about what color it is. This has, for some reason, made the internet shit its pants. Meanwhile, there is a perfectly reasonable explanation for this phenomenon. As usual, the answer is scientific. People's eyes absorb different amounts of light, which makes the exposure of an image different, even if they are looking at the same screen. Allow me to explain further, using a few visual aids.

OMFG it's magic!!! Right?


So what's happening here?

First off, things do not inherently have a color. Nothing is red, yellow, or blue. Instead, color is our brain's way of telling us what electromagnetic spectra is hitting our eyes. Things do not emit these spectra, but they do dictate which light waves are bounced back at your eye. Please stop acting like the dress definitely is one color or another, because that's just not how stuff works.

What we are seeing is a simple alteration in exposure. As you can see, the goldish color gets darker and more brownish-blackish, and the off-white also gets darker and more blue.

It is seriously that simple. Listen to me... seriously. simple.


I still see the same thing I always saw!

When you're driving, do you ever think you see a cop, then you look and it magically transformed into a regular car? This is because your brain is programmed to feed you what you're already expecting to see. It's an evolutionary by-product of when we needed to look out for predators and stuff. Anyway, back to the point.

Your brain has predefined sets of data that it recalls whenever your eyes see something that meets similar criteria for that object. The truth is, visible light is a continuum. We have defined specific colors, but that doesn't mean actual colors need to fall within these definitions.

Here's where your brain plays a trick: your eyes see a color that is outside what we would call blue, your brain says "meh, close enough" and you decide that this color is blue. Even more interesting, your brain is super stubborn about this definition. If you alter the photo to be more greenish, your brain might be all like, "no, I've seen that grass before... that grass is blue."

This is probably why you are still seeing the dress as the same stupid color.

admit it... this guy made you look.


Bright Screen


Dark Screen


But... my facebook friends think it's the other colors

Different screens are set to different exposures. You are not looking at the same image, even though the image file is the same. Your friends all the way on the other side of the internet are looking at an image that is either lighter or darker. You can test this for yourself.

First, cover everything on your screen except the image of that stupid dress you keep talking about.

Second, turn the exposure all the way up. (OMFG, its looks all white and gold!)

Third, turn the exposure all the way down. (OMFG, it looks all blue and black!)

Finally, tell all of your friends about this so I don't have to hear about it anymore.

Important: make sure you cover everything but the dress or else your eyes will compensate for the changes in the background and you will see the same colors that you did in the first case.

The sun plays a role too


My friends see a different color, looking at the same screen

This is still because they are seeing an image with a different exposure. People's eyes naturally let in different amounts of light, depending on the physical biology of their eyes and how much their pupils are dilated.

An analogy: you and your BFF are at the beach and she's like... wearing these cute sunnies. Then you decide to go in the water and she has to take them off. She is going to complain that the everything is super bright, while your eyes have had time to adjust. You are seeing a darker, less exposed, world than her.

So, let's just let that be the end of that.


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    • profile image

      angel 2 years ago

      Two women are behind the viral dress that has everyone confused. Here's what they told us.

    • Luke M Simmons profile image

      Luke M. Simmons 3 years ago from Encinitas, California

      @peach & @dressage: I'm glad even though you guys are not concerned with this debate you still took the time to read and comment. Thanks a ton!

    • Dressage Husband profile image

      Stephen J Parkin 3 years ago from Pine Grove, Nova Scotia, Canada

      It really does not matter what colour it is supposed to be. The owners says it is actually black and blue. However it is interesting that the colours change so much depending on photographic exposure.

    • peachpurple profile image

      peachy 3 years ago from Home Sweet Home

      i am not bothered with the color of the dress, I prefer to have t shirts with solid color.

    • Luke M Simmons profile image

      Luke M. Simmons 3 years ago from Encinitas, California

      @favored: absolutely some good fodder for discussion. Thanks for reading

    • favored profile image

      Fay Favored 3 years ago from USA

      This topic was really interesting. I see gold/white. It made good conversation for sure.

    • Luke M Simmons profile image

      Luke M. Simmons 3 years ago from Encinitas, California

      @Adventuretravels: thank you very much. I loved your article on California holidays, I have lived in this wonderful place for 27 years and was pleased to find gems I had never even heard of. It's great to see an article about California that doesn't simply belch, "beach, go to there." The coastline is such a small portion of California's landmass, and your article reflects this beautifully. Proud to be your 100th "interesting" vote.

    • Adventuretravels profile image

      Giovanna Sanguinetti 3 years ago from Perth UK

      Great stuff - you funny guy - you and I are going to get on very well!! I gave you a thumbs up.

    • Luke M Simmons profile image

      Luke M. Simmons 3 years ago from Encinitas, California

      @marlene: I wrote this article pretty much just to convince my friends that they should stop yelling at each other. I am very pleased that it has reached others and helped them move on too. Yes, it is interesting, I absolutely get that, but just like most everything else in this existence, it has a perfectly reasonable explanation once we allow ourselves science. Thank you for being one of the open minded.

    • MarleneB profile image

      Marlene Bertrand 3 years ago from USA

      I can't believe I'm still reading about that dress. I have to admit I was as intrigued as everyone else. But, now that I understand what's going on, I can let it go. Thank you for your explanation. I can move on to other things now.

    • Luke M Simmons profile image

      Luke M. Simmons 3 years ago from Encinitas, California

      @temptor: Perhaps that is one good thing to come out of all this.

    • profile image

      temptor94 3 years ago

      Interesting hub! This dress is on rage all over Facebook. All of a sudden, we see people rediscovering this basic science and having hot debate about it :)

    • Luke M Simmons profile image

      Luke M. Simmons 3 years ago from Encinitas, California

      @Susan: Yes, it would be great to find a way to utilize this power for good. Perhaps a certain prominent global political leader could wear a similar fabric (or hey, the dress itself) to the next Climate Summit or World Conference on Human Rights? Our global community needs to start embracing dialogue on worthwhile topics. I'm planning on writing a hub on this phenomenon titled "The Wrong People Are Famous." I'll hope you'll stay tuned for that. Cheers.

    • Susan Hambidge profile image

      Susan Hambidge 3 years ago from Hertfordshire, England

      This was explained on our tea-time news in the UK, almost exactly as you have it. What I find fascinating is the way it spread around the world, everyone was talking about it, on the radio, at work, on the train. Now how can we use this power in a better way??? Thanks for the hub.

    • Luke M Simmons profile image

      Luke M. Simmons 3 years ago from Encinitas, California

      @annart: I was hoping someone with an optometry background would chime in... and I'm relieved you agree. It's refreshing to confirm academia and professionals agree in at least one discipline. I share your frustration with popular topical trends trending toward the increasingly trivial. This might be why trivia in phone apps and bars has skyrocketed in popularity: people don't care if it matters, they care about being right. As if right and wrong are inherently binary choices to begin with. Oh well, that's for another day.

      @MDavisatTIERS: Stupendous point. I did not address the reasons for this at all, I merely complained about it. First off, if someone crafted this internet meltdown as an ingenious marketing ploy, they deserve every last red cent. My guess is that the internet just took something idiotic and ran with it... as it is wont (predispositioned) to do. As I alluded to before, I think the reason people get so amped up about things like this is the psychological investment in themselves being right. If someone happens to disagree with them, especially on something as supposedly evident as this, they must bring in more people to validate their correctness. This could be what fuels the exponential cascade of shares on social media. Plus, I think it had something to do with a celebrity award ceremony, which is a whole other issue that I'll get into later.

      @Julie: thank you very much, I do intend to.

    • Julie K Henderson profile image

      Julie K Henderson 3 years ago

      I enjoyed this article. It was both entertaining and informative. Keep up the good work.

    • MDavisatTIERS profile image

      Marilyn L Davis 3 years ago from Georgia

      Good morning, Luke...ah modern science, and some old tried and true explanations for the phenomenon. Although, it does not explain the fascination as far as why this photo, this dress or this marketing ploy got so much attention. I'm not sure there is hard and fast enlightenment on that one. Thanks for the science and we'll leave the social to others. Good job. ~Marilyn

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 3 years ago from SW England

      I'm fed up with this too. My Dad was an optometrist and explained these sorts of things to me years ago. Apart from that, it's just a dress. Who cares what colour it is? Personal preferences apply.

      We all see colours differently; I've had endless 'discussions' about the shades of blue or green, or is it turquoise? As you say, pre-defined colours are taken as gospel - NO. Let's celebrate our individuality!

      I get really annoyed with trivia all over the tv, the net etc, especially when it's shouted at us over and over again.

      Interesting hub, well explained.

    • Luke M Simmons profile image

      Luke M. Simmons 3 years ago from Encinitas, California

      Thanks @Jodah your frustration is indeed shared and is the inspiration for this hub. I hope this reasoning helps you put an end to your friends' senseless bickering. cheers.

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 3 years ago from Queensland Australia

      I hope your hub has put an end to ha been all over the Internet and tv..and I am so sick of it. Who cares what colour the damn dress is? Looking at the same thing on different computers or the same program on different tvs...nothing looks exactly the same. I can't believe such a trivial thing has gone so viral...crazy. Anyway good, sensible hub.

    • Luke M Simmons profile image

      Luke M. Simmons 3 years ago from Encinitas, California

      Thanks guys, I'm stoked on both your pages as well.

    • PsychGeek profile image

      PsychGeek 3 years ago from UK

      Great Hub - enjoyed reading this! Full of humour but informative and interesting too. Voted up!

    • Prof Liway profile image

      Liwayway Memije-Cruz 3 years ago from Bulacan, Philippines

      Very interesting hub Sir Luke.

    • Luke M Simmons profile image

      Luke M. Simmons 3 years ago from Encinitas, California

      Thanks for the support Susi! Glad you liked it.

    • susi10 profile image

      Susan W 3 years ago from The British Isles, Europe

      This dress has taken over the internet, hasn't it? I kept seeing it white and gold, but now I realize it was just a matter of switching the darkness/brightness. Such a simple thing!

      Thanks for clearing this up, Luke. Great hub by the way, Luke! Shared and voted interesting.

    • Luke M Simmons profile image

      Luke M. Simmons 3 years ago from Encinitas, California

      @MsDora happy to hear it! Thanks for reading.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 3 years ago from The Caribbean

      Just yesterday I saw the dress--brown and white-- on someone's phone. When I moved and sat close to the person showing the dress--some other color according to her--I saw the blue. Thanks for clearing this up, and I will make her read this.