Tomb Raider and Its Relationship with Fashion - Tomb Raider Corner #3
Author: @larasglasses GiFriends MOD
Promo Art Credit Series Partner: @illyne_cosplay
Tomb Raider is well known for its fashion. Whether it’s people saying Lara Croft is dressed too skimpily or too conservatively, It has often been a topic of conversation within the fanbase and in wider gaming spaces as well. The common thing you will hear said about Classic Tomb Raider is that Lara’s outfits were skimpy and were only there for the male gaze. While I don’t deny that choices in marketing and some outfits in the games were made with some of that in mind, Lara’s beauty is always in her hands. It’s never used against her, nor is it used in her favor. Yes, marketing failed to capture this same energy often, but when speaking about Lara as she was, the character we play as in this series we love, I don’t think it’s relevant. Many of her outfits are well loved and iconic. Classic Lara going to a mountain in shorts and a top, to me reads as an element of camp in the lighthearted adventure we embark on in Tomb Raider (1996). However, as the classic games moved on her choice of clothing became much more determined by her environment. To an extent, mainly here fashion is thought of over function and I think that suits the classic games in terms of vibe and feel. For example, in Tomb Raider II we follow Lara to Tibet, one of my favorite locations from the franchise, and she stills wears the shorts but now wears her famous bomber jacket over her teal lycra top. This is an example of fashion being thought of over function.When I say fashion,I mean any philosophy regarding clothing. Whether this be Lara being dressed with more skin or less skin. Here, they chose to opt out of shorts for pants to maintain a look. With Tomb Raider III, we start to see more function over fashion but still fitting these outfits to Lara’s style. A good example of this is the Antartica jacket and camo pants combo. This feels very much in line with Lara’s fashion sense, colour is thought about as well as Pattern combinations but they show a considerable amount of thought of environment here than they had before. This is a good indicator of where Lara Croft’s fashion begins to head in the classic era, as well as the LAU (legend>anniversary>underworld) era.As well as this, we have the South Pacific outfit that has Lara in a white tube top and green camo pants. This outfit, while some will point out is showing more skin than usual, still has plausible function. The connection of it being a warm climate has been applied to the outfit she wears, and while her outfit certainly prioritizes fashion over function (no knee pads, no protective clothing), it still maintains the philosophy of outfits future entries (with multiple outfits) will continue.
Tomb Raider: Legend continues the philosophy of the later classic games but with a ‘Y2K’ twist. This is a new era of Tomb Raider, and when this happens we see changes in the way her outfits are presented. Here, she wears generally muted colours and function is thought of alongside fashion once again. This time though, function has moved up the ranks in prioritization. I would say fashion is still thought of primarily here, but function is definitely more important than before. Legend has lara globetrotting once more, and her clothes suit the climate even if they do prioritize maintaining a look. Lara wears a coat and pants once again when we visit Kazakhstan. This outfit on PS2 ,PC, PSP and the original XBOX has an ever so slightly cropped jumper and coat combo. The slightly cropped jumper and coat here, retains the thought of location while still sacrificing some function for fashion, Anniversary, of course has its rendition of the Tomb Raider I default outfit for the entire game. This is an example of fashion being prioritized heavily in this instance. Tomb Raider Underworld carries on Legend’s philosophy of outfits and is well loved as one of the best versions of Lara’s wardrobe we have ever seen.
The survivor era has a completely new outfit philosophy where function takes priority over fashion. While fashion is still thought of considerably, function takes the wheel for this chapter of Lara’s legacy. The 2013 default outfit has her in a call back outfit to her classic attire. A white undershirt, a muted blue tank and khaki pants. This indicates the more serious tone the franchise would take for this era. This isn’t to suggest the classic and LAU outfits cannot be taken seriously, and it’s important to recognize some less than pleasant things some of the team who worked on her character had to say about those versions of Lara. However, this Lara was much less experienced, terrified and unprepared. The reason that the outfits work so well for me in the classic and LAU eras is that I believe the character would make those outfit choices. Lara in those games loves what she does, and is at the top of her game. She feels untouchable and invincible. This is a Lara who would think of her adventures as dressing up for an event. Survivor Lara, in Tomb Raider (2013), is thrown into what happens to her. This Lara thinks of function first, and fashion second and that makes sense for her. In Rise Of The Tomb Raider, this philosophy is continued but fashion starts to become thought about more. Some of the most well loved outfits in the franchise are from this game. My personal favorite is ‘Shadow Runner’ because of how evocative it is of the Russia outfit in Tomb Raider: Chronicles. We also get a lot of ‘hunter-esque’ outfits to suit the game’s snowy, visceral environment. This indicates Lara’s transition from prey to predator. Shadow Of The Tomb Raider puts a few more points back into function with the many ‘tribal’ outfits from that game and its downloadable content. Cementing this, there is a section of the game in Paititi where you must use the tribal outfits. Some of these absolutely have a look in mind, but primarily blending in and suiting the narrative is what is prioritized here. However, there are also outfits like the default outfit, tactical explorer, that balance fashion and function fairly equally. The colours, a muted blue lycra top (love the call back to the original top!) and muted khaki pants, call back to both Classic Lara’s color scheme as well as her Tomb Raider (2013) colour scheme. There is even a more brightly coloured alternate to this outfit to mimic the Classic palette more directly. The survivor era thinks about its iconography just as much as older eras, function has just become part of its iconography.
To finish up, all eras of Tomb Raider in my opinion have iconic fashion. Every era has fashion thought about, and every era has function thought about. The value placed on either side is dependent on mostly character trait related variables, as well as culture at the time of release.Neither end of the spectrum is bad or good, I believe all eras of Tomb Raider have fashion suited to its games. We would love to hear about some of your favorite outfits, tag @tombraiderinf on twitter or @tombraiderinfinite over on Instagram!