“The dress” is a photograph that became a viral Internet meme on 26 February 2015, when viewers disagreed over whether the colours of the item of clothing depicted were black and blue or white and gold. The phenomenon revealed differences in human colour perception which have been the subject of ongoing scientific investigation in neuroscience and vision science, with a number of papers published in peer-reviewed science journals.
The photo originated from a washed-out colour photograph of a dress posted on the social networking service Tumblr. In the first week after the surfacing of the image alone, more than 10 million tweets mentioned the dress, using hashtags such as #thedress, #whiteandgold and #blackandblue. Although the actual colour of the dress was eventually confirmed to be black and blue, the image prompted discussions surrounding the matter across various platforms, with users discussing their opinions on the colour and why they perceived the dress as being a certain colour. At the same time, members of the scientific community began to investigate the photo for fresh insights into human colour vision.
The dress itself, which was identified as a product of the retailer Roman Originals, experienced a major surge in sales as a result of the incident. The retailer also produced a one-off version of the dress in white and gold as a charity campaign.
About a week before the wedding of couple Grace and Keir Johnston of Colonsay, Scotland, the bride’s mother, Cecilia Bleasdale, took a photograph of a dress she planned to wear to the wedding and sent it to her daughter. After disagreements over the perceived colour of the dress in the photograph, the bride posted the image on Facebook, and her friends also disagreed over the colour; some saw it as white with gold lace, while others saw it as blue with black lace. For a week, the debate became well known in Colonsay, a small island community.
On the day of the wedding, Ceitlin McNeill, a friend of the bride and groom and a member of the Scottish folk music group Canach, performed with her band at the wedding on Colonsay. Even after seeing that the dress was “obviously blue and black” in real life, the musicians remained preoccupied by the photograph; they said they almost failed to make it on stage because they were caught up discussing the dress. A few days later, on 26 February, McNeill reposted the image to her blog on Tumblr and posed the same question to her followers, which led to further public discussion surrounding the image.