What Color is This Dress?

(Image credit: Cecilia Bleasdale)

There’s been quite a debate among Tumblr users about the colors of this dress. The picture was posted by Swiked, and then passed around, igniting arguments wherever it showed up. I looked at it and said, “That’s white with gold lace.” Then I read three posts at Buzzfeed about the controversy surrounding the colors, with plenty of pictures of the dress with various color corrections and even a catalog entry, and they determined that the dress is actually blue with black lace.

But what really floored me was when I returned to the original picture and saw it as blue and black! I could not make myself see white and gold again at that point. THEN I went somewhere else for about twenty minutes and returned to the original picture. It appeared white and gold again- for a minute or two, then it turned blue and black again. Now, my eyesight isn’t the greatest, but this is one weird phenomena.  

Update: There's a discussion of some of the factors going into this photo here.

What colors do you see in the dress?




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I'm with you, Ladybugs! I can only see white and gold, regardless of what I try to do (stare into the monitor, squint a bit, squint a lot and so on). Now I feel left out!
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There are actually a lot of determinations (not just assumptions) regarding white balance you can make from the highlights and shadows of the image (color casts are different at the extremes depending on lighting, especially when using cheap digital sensors), the adjacent objects (the cloth right behind it), and even the flaring from the dirty lens (you can actually see the color blend from the background lighting to the material in the top right). The lighting is too omni-directional to have a blue light be hitting the dress without it hitting anything behind it. That's enough to at least confirm that the white balance and lighting isn't so dramatic that a white/gold dress would reflect a blue wavelength to the camera (since we can measure and see that the color is distinctly blue).

That's not to say you couldn't have a situation where you could genuinely fool people (see today's XKCD), but there's definitely enough information in this image to be 99% sure that it is what it.... well, let's say what it can be measured to be. :)
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