On Thursday, the Internet community started fighting over the color of a dress. Even celebrities like Taylor Swift, Kim Kardashian, Mia Furrow and dozens of others were confused by its color. Well, here is how it all started. On Wednesday, a 21-year old Scottish woman with user name “swiked” posted a photo on Tumblr with a simple question, “Guys please help me – is this dress white and gold, or blue and black?”
folks i do colors for a living and that dress is blue and black. the yellowish lighting is making the black part look sorta gold.
— mark greg sputnik (@bobby) February 27, 2015
What color is that dress? I see white & gold. Kanye sees black & blue, who is color blind?
— Kim Kardashian West (@KimKardashian) February 27, 2015
Ok I changed my mind that dress is blueish- white and gold(ish). Depending. And we need to move on now
— Mia Farrow (@MiaFarrow) February 27, 2015
— Krister Johnson (@KristerJohnson) February 27, 2015
How ‘the dress story’ unfolded
The Tumblr user later identified herself to Business Insider as Caitlin McNeill, a singer from the tiny Scottish island of Colonsay. She told Business Insider that the dress was worn by the bride’s mother. Two of McNeill’s close friends were getting married. The mother of the bride took a picture of the now famous dress and sent it to her daughter.
When McNeill’s friend showed the dress to her fiancee, they disagreed on the color. Other friends also realized that there was something different about the dress. Some said it was white and gold, others thought it was blue and black. The bride then posted the photo on Facebook and the color debate spread further.
McNeill has answered the question
After spotting the Facebook thread, McNeill decided to share it on a Tumblr fan page she has, which is dedicated to a woman named Sarah Weichel. That’s when it went viral. Weichel is a talent manager representing many YouTubers. Weichel told Business Insider that it had nothing to do with her because it was just a fan account for her. It was Sarah Weichel who put Business Insider in touch with Caitlin McNeill.
Not many people might have noticed it, but McNeill has given the answer. In response to a user’s comment late Thursday, she wrote, “Well actually, in real life the dress was blue and black. But in that photo and that photo only….some people see white and gold.” So, why do some people see it white and gold? Andy Rexford has a scientific explanation.
An explanation why you see this dress as blue and black or white and gold. pic.twitter.com/ayXpqavC9B
— Andy Rexford (@andyrexford) February 27, 2015
Science behind the color of the dress
Retinas in our eyes let us interpret colors. There are “rods” and “cones.” The rods see shade such as white red, black; and the cones see color. The thing is cones work only when enough light passes through. Your rods may see it as a shade (white). Your cones may see the dress as white but somebody else may see it as blue. That’s because your cones are not responding to the dim lighting, says Rexford.
There are three cones: small (blue sensitive), medium (green sensitive), large (red sensitive). As for the black part of the dress (which some may see as gold), it is additive mixing. Andy Rexford says blue, green and red are the main colors for additive mixing. In additive mixing, when you add the three colors the eyes see the best, it makes pure white, he adds. In subtractive mixing, the more colors you add, the murkier it becomes until it’s black.
If you see the dress in white and gold, that means your retina’s cones don’t work well in dim light. Rods see white shade. It leads to additive mixing (of red and green) to make gold. But if you see it as blue and black, your cones are pretty effective. So, your eyes do subtractive mixing. And that’s Andy’s explanation.