The Dress Is White & Gold


Or so I believed. Emphatically. Without a hint of doubt.

I work at a print and production company, one that uses a wide variety of large format printers with a smorgasbord of substrates, every single day.  We have color theory experts that create profiles for our Adobe programs, for our servers, for our RIP stations, and anything else they can think of. We have multiple viewing areas, each equipped with various types of lighting so we can color match prints with live products based on the client’s typical viewing habits. Our staff is filled with designers and print techs who have been through college and understand color charts. We are entrenched in the world of color. We argue about it and take color separation tests for fun. We probably have people who can recite a PMS chart from memory if they needed to. Yet, here we were, a half dozen of us, bunched up around one computer debating the color of a low-res image of a dress like we were trying to solve the world’s most pressing issue.

We’ve argued color before, as I mentioned, but this was different. There was anger and frustration, astounded scawffs, disbelief, and straight up laughter in a, “You’ve got to be out of your mind!” kind of way. Each person walking by was quickly assaulted to see which “team” they were on, and each, looking nervous and assuming this simple question was a set-up, would give their answer and then be consumed by the fury that would result, having no idea the firestorm they were going to release depending on which two colors they saw.

Black and blue or white and gold? Each side was convinced. Each was astounded the other couldn’t see it the way they did. Again, this was color.  This is what we do. If we couldn’t be unified on this, we may as well shut our doors. But there was no common ground to be had.

One thing I found interesting was that those who saw it as white and gold could articulate it immediately. Those who saw it as black and blue would struggle to pinpoint exactly what colors the dress was. Periwinkle and grey-ish (maybe) green were common, but if you’d ask the struggling person, “White and gold?”, a “Bewildered, weren’t you listening to what I just said?” look would appear, and we knew we had another for the blue and black club.

And so it continued, raging on; both sides digging in deep enough to hold the Alamo for one more round. We read articles. We’d debate more. Then we went to Photoshop where we live. And then, after setting the black point to the upper left portion of the dress’s mesh, and the white point to just to the right of the dress in the background, the image shifted. Now I could see the blue and black dress staring back at me. It was severely washed out, but gone were the colors of royalty and angels, and left were the colors of any of a half dozen sport teams.


Shortly thereafter we saw images of the actual dress, and though it was indeed blue and black, those of us seeing white and gold insisted this photo made the dress look otherwise. Neither side could deny that fully, but it didn’t help our cause.  The worst part, for me, was that once I saw the color shift in front of me, I had trouble getting my mind to re-see it as I once had. Now it sort of looked blue and black, but not really. But it didn’t look white and gold either. I think I broke my eyes on this thing.

Here is a really GREAT ARTICLE ABOUT THE DRESS that pretty much summed up everything myself and my coworkers said, asked, argued, and spewed at each other over a really dumb dress. It was a little creepy how it was nearly verbatim at points, too.

So what about you? What color do you see? Rest assured, no matter which you do, there are trained professionals who will back you up. Unfortunately, they may now all be unemployed.

Thanks internet.

— Brett “That dress is gold” Hibbler