The Dress

Google “dress” and the results that come up all have to do with what has become known as #dressgate.

Mention ‘white and gold’, or ‘blue and black’ and immediately, people know what you’re talking about.



The dress has become the latest internet sensation inspiring digital tons of discussions, memes, and resulting conversations that range from the science behind the colours, which side to pick, or the predictable “I don’t care. I wish people would stop talking about the stupid dress. Aren’t there more important issues in the world?”

The cynic in me, rather than to not care, instead says I don’t care that people don’t care. I think this internet obsession is particularly interesting because it’s more than the dress and selectively picking sides. It’s an optical illusion in real life form where we see what we see beyond our control.

Illusions play a heavy role in fashion. Everything from wearing black to look thinner to vertical lines making you look taller, and the shape of certain articles of clothing can draw attention to specific parts of the body. It’s all about visuals.

But this dress takes the classic optical illusion and puts it to work. What I find amazing about it is that you have the same image but different people see it differently.

Grey square optical illusion

Adelson Checkerboard illusion: read about it on Wikipedia

Whether or not you hate hearing about “the dress”, you have to admit that it’s fascinating. Different people perceive the same object differently. It isn’t even so much a case as an obstacle illusion that throws you off, as in this classic illusion to the right, because in those examples, everyone has the same reaction. For the Checker shadow illusion, we’d agree that A looks darker than B but understand it’s because of the shadow cast from the cylinder. But with the dress, the response is varied. Some people see white and gold. Others see blue and black. And some have seen both in different instances.

There are explanations of the dress is explained online. Wired puts the photo through white balancing, saying it’s the lighting of the image that affects how we see the colour of the dress. Gizmodo explain by adding our own eyes to the equation. How the rods and cones in our eyes visualize colour depends on the amount of lighting in the room, which could be effected by time-of-day or where we are in the house. So where and when we look at the dress will affect how we see it. While Buzzfeed brings in some neuroscientists to explain that it even goes beyond rods and cones into our own individual past experiences and perceptions.

So the whole ordeal with the dress isn’t about the dress. It’s become an opportunity to learn some science, how our eyes work, how photography works, and even how people react when forced to pick sides – or forced to hear about an internet sensation they’ve decided they’re too cool for. For those people, I say light’n up! For everyone else, it’s been fun, hasn’t it?

And for the record, I’ve only even seen it as white and gold – so far – even if I know it’s actually blue and black.

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