Black and blue is the new white and gold

Two weeks ago, a dress caused a big discussion on the internet about a striped dress. Is it black and blue or white and gold? Depending on the illumination of the dress people would swear that it is the former or latter color combination.

The answer

The dress is actually black and blue. However, when it is illuminated in the right way, it provides the illusion to be white and gold.

The physics behind this illusion

The color of light in which the photographer takes the photo of the dress causes the illusion. The brain of people who interpret ambient light as too blue compensates for it. It takes out blue color like a filter in your photo-shop software. Consequently, these people see the dress white and gold. On the contrary, when their brain feels that the ambient light is not blue enough, they perceive the dress as black and blue.

Conclusion: You can't even trust your brain! Click To Tweet Interestingly, when being told about the physics some people can see the dress both ways.

The reason

Obviously, color perception varies among people, and color perception seems to be related to the DNA. Think of color blindness running in a family. What’s the catch?


These silver leather pants I am wearing provide a similar illusion effect. I can see them either as silver or gray. While the difference between the two colors (actually silver is not a color from a physics point of view) may be small and more related to shine, a friend of mine calls them purple in artificial light. She then likes these pants. However, when she sees them in natural daylight she will always say “these silver pants are wild!”, read “how can you wear them?!”

#styleover40 older woman in silver leather pants over 40

outfit in spring's trend colors
Silver leather pants with glacier blue GNW Luxe cashmere wool sweater, gray belt and Harley Davidson booties


Do you have any such chameleons in your closet?

#fashionover40 midlife woman in outerwear with DIY scarf
Shearling coat with hat, DIY long knitted scarf, silver pants, structured bag, gloves, and Harley Davidson booties (all own)


For other science bits see why clothes release sparks and why light is pink in Alaska in winter.

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Photos: G. Kramm

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