Friday, February 27, 2015

What we can all learn from The Dress

I was in my bedroom last night, minding my own business, when my husband walked in with something he seemed desperate to show me. He pulled out a picture on his phone of a dress, an ugly two-toned, lace-detailed dress which was covered by what looked like a pleather mini jacket. He said, "What color is this?" and at first, I didn't know what he meant. This dress was so unmistakably blue and black to me that his question seemed like a trick. Maybe you could call the blue "indigo" if you wanted to get specific about it, but I just didn't know what he was getting at.

I answered him. "Blue and black. Blue with black lace."
"Oh my god," he said. "I thought it was just a joke."
"What? Why, what do you see?" I said.
"White and gold. And 75% of the Internet agrees with me."

By now, you've all seen this dress. Unless you have been asleep or on some really long international flight, this image has come across your eyeballs at some point. You have formed really strong opinions about it, polled all of your friends, and now you are questioning everything you thought you knew about color.

For those who don't know (i.e. no one), this picture was posted to Tumblr, and it quickly spread across the Internet as people began arguing about what colors they were seeing. Most were seeing white and gold. A smaller minority saw blue and black. It escalated very quickly. Here are the survey results from Buzzfeed:

The numbers were stacked against me, BUT HOW?!

When Daniel told me that he saw this dress as gold and white, I was so taken aback. Gold and white? Where? What? You mean that the background is white, right? No, but like the reflection of the light is gold, but it's actually black, right? No. Wait. WAIT. WHAT!

While I wouldn't necessarily call myself stoic, I will say that I'm not always the easiest person to impress. However, once I saw this image, I was positively dazzled. For me, even from the very start, it was never about finding out what color the actual dress was, but rather, understanding why this phenomenon was occurring in the first place (WHICH BY THE WAY, WE STILL DON'T REALLY KNOW). 

But what quickly became even more fascinating to me was how this all played out socially. Buzzfeed quickly released a hilarious post about friendships being ruined by The Dress. People started organizing teams (#WhiteAndGold #BlackAndBlue), busting out their photoshop skills, creating memes. I posted about it on my personal Facebook account and I was so blown away by the variety of responses. There were those who believed it was a GIF (sorry folks, it was a JPG). There were those who posted four paragraph descriptions of how cones work in our eyes. There were others still who began posting vehemently about the actual retail dress (which was indeed unmistakably blue). Regardless of whatever new information emerged, people were indignant about the superiority of their color opinion.

For the most part, the larger conversation essentially looked like this: "You are crazy, it's white and gold." "YOU are crazy, it's blue and black."

It seemed that each side became so singularly focused on invalidating the other side's experience that we neglected the fact that something AMAZING was happening. The whole phenomenon was a unique human event. Just ask color vision researcher Dr. Jay Nietz who, according to his interview in Vice, still has no explanation for it. He hilariously remarked, "I thought I was going to cure blindness, but now I guess I'll do this." 

Yet as the Internet so often does, we turned it into a polarizing argument of who was actually "right," and this is where things went from being super fun to being kind of a bummer. Because the truth is, no one is right. And also everyone is right. We each have had a different experience with this image, and maybe we should just celebrate that. On some level, it's actually kind of beautiful. 

And I don't know, I probably shouldn't take this metaphor too far, but meh, what the hell? I, for one, think the dress served to teach us a lesson that we so often neglect to remember: we are people who see the world differently. It's not just this dumb dress. Every aspect of our worldview has been colored with our own experiences. And perhaps instead of admonishing each other for seeing the world a different way, we should seek to understand each other better. We should ask questions, tune into our differences, and get excited about the fact that they exist. Without foregoing our beliefs, we can still keep ourselves from crapping on everyone else's.

At one point last night, suddenly and without warning, I saw The Dress as gold and white. From what I understand, this happened to a lot of people. For me, it was kind of a nauseating feeling to suddenly see this image so differently, but it was also really thrilling. It went back to black and blue almost immediately, but I'll never forget what it was like to actually see what my friends were seeing.

Soooo...let's see the dress from both sides, folks. The metaphorical dress, that is. See whatever you want to see in that dumb picture.

Yours in Black and Blue,


  1. Whaaaaat?! I must be living under a rock because I hadn't heard of this cultural phenomenon until this post. But I am definitely seeing blue and black, and am so curious to know why some people see it as white and gold!! Really, I am quite as shocked as you are. I need answers.

    Also, I like your metaphor.

  2. As I have continued to investigate today, I have seen it as black and blue more and more often. I am worried that I am being changed on some fundamental level. I should probably take a break.

    I also very much enjoyed your post and your support of my white and gold lifestyle.

    1. as cute and funny as this comment is I'm a little hurt that you're so quick to abandon our white and gold lifestyle. Stay strong Daniel! Don't let them change you! ;P

    2. p.s. I think it's cute because I know you're her husband, probably should have made that part clear.

  3. A. My boyfriend also saw it (and still sees it) as White and Gold. He thought I was making it up as
    B. I am also on team #BlueandBlack
    C. Last night in one photo for about 15 seconds I saw the white and gold dress and thought it was a joke. Then it changed before my eyes. It's incredibly freaky.
    D. Basically our lives will never be the same again

  4. Team #BlackandBlue! The internet with its quirkiness never ceases to amaze me, how did this dress become a "thing"? So hilarious!

    I LOVE your take on this phenomenon, you didn't take it too far at all. There's a lesson to be learned everywhere in life, and you managed to extract it from a debate about dress colours. Awesome!

  5. I think it can be fun to argue about it in a playful way - because you can say, "You're wrong" but who actually cares? It's just a dress, right? But then my office got angry about it and now I'm totally on board with you. Why are we actually fighting about this? Let's just be blown away by the fact that we're all seeing the same thing differently! It's a perfect metaphor for life.

    P.S. I saw black and blue at first, and then later my eyes switched over to gold and white and now I can't go back. Mind = blown.

  6. Fun fact: when I scroll up to see the picture, it looks blue and black. When I scroll down and see it, it looks white and gold. I'm almost embarrassed that this has become as big of a deal as it has. Imagine if we put this much attention towards a legitimate problem...

  7. Teehee, its crazy right!! Like your metaphorical take on this!

    If you want some science know how into WHY, I wrote about it here

    Just found your blog and I love it already!

  8. I don't see white and gold or black and blue; I see purple and brown! Does anyone else see this? Maybe I'm just weird.

    I LOVED that you decided to take a cultural "fad" so to speak, a lesson from it! I totally agree, too!

  9. ok I'm about a month late on this which is really like 7 years in internet time, but I still feel the need to be like I saw white and gold no matter how hard I tried to see it the other way. UNTIL someone took a picture of the picture on their computer. For some reason seeing it that way was, like you described, both unnerving and enlightening at the same time. It was really amusing for me to see the entire internet world get in such a flurry over this dang dress. To me, the only 'un-fun' part were the people who posted things like "who cares its just a dumb dress omg why does everyone care so much if i hear one more thing about this dress I'm gonna lose it" etc etc. Buzzkillers, man!

  10. for the love of all that is holy. every time i see that dress its white and gold. Until i read your post! I clicked the link of the real dress and now all of the sudden its blue and black in the picture!!! Mind. Officially. Blown.
    Thanks Christy!


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