Do you remember the dress that sparked widespread debate in 2015? What colors did you think it was, and why did such a seemingly innocuous question cause the internet to lose its collective mind? This is a dive into meme history.
The Dress: The Origin Story
In February 2015, Cecilia Bleasdale took a photo of a dress she intended to wear to her daughter Grace’s wedding. However, when Grace and her friends saw the photo, they couldn’t agree on the dress’s color.
This disagreement led Caitlin McNeill, a friend of the bride, to post the photo on Tumblr on February 25th, asking users for their opinion.
The post quickly went viral, accumulating almost half a million notes and giving birth to #Dressgate.
The following day, BuzzFeed amplified the debate by reposting the image with a poll, leading to a division among readers: 72% saw white and gold, while 28% saw black and blue.
The debate became a global phenomenon, with #WhiteandGold tweets outnumbering #BlackandBlue by three times.
In just 24 hours, tweets containing #TheDress exceeded 1.2 million, showing the extent of the public’s engagement.
Enter Two Llamas, On The Run
Amidst this frenzy, another event was unfolding at the Carillion retirement community in Sun City, Arizona, unrelated to the dress debate.
Two llamas, one white and one black, escaped during a meet-and-greet event, leading to a slow-speed police chase that was live-streamed and covered by national news.
This incident, dubbed #LlamaDrama, added an unexpected twist to the day and spawned crossover memes with Dressgate.
While these events unfolded with a light-hearted tone, they also inspired more serious derivative media, too. For example, the South African branch of the Salvation Army used the dress to highlight their #StopAbuseAgainstWomen campaign.
The Science Behind The Colors
Meanwhile, Roman Originals, the retailer of the dress, confirmed it was indeed black and blue. However, they considered producing it in white and gold, ultimately creating just one dress that was auctioned for charity:
The core of the controversy lay in the science of color perception.
On February 27th, a Reddit mega thread in r/AskScience invited experts to discuss the phenomenon, highlighting the concept of color constancy. XKCD posted an illustration explaining how background lighting affects color perception:
The consensus among color scientists was that the perceived color of the dress depended on the viewer’s assumption about the lighting in the room.
Fast forward to 2023, eight years after the original post, the debate experienced a brief resurgence when a Twitter user posted an image related to “The Dress” — and Martha Stewart’s grandchildren educated her on it, too:
Ultimately, The Dress was a reminder of how subjective our perception can be and how a simple image can captivate the world’s attention, demonstrating the powerful blend of science, psychology, and social media.