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Lara Croft: The Evolution

Love her or hate her, in the late ‘90s you couldn’t ignore Lara Croft. The buxom beauty vaulted to cyber-stardom among a sea of male protagonists. It’s hard to deny that the phenomenon of Lara’s success was inextricably tied to her physical presentation – her nature as a projection of both power and sexual fantasies. There was no overlooking the cinched waistline and impossible curves, the inflated lips and elongated legs, or the excessive flexibility and effortless grace. Some embraced Lara as an inspiration for these very reasons. Others shunned her as a chauvinistic objectification.

Through eight console iterations, Lara Croft’s visage has continued to evolve – constantly straddling the line between fantasy and reality, idealism and believability. With Crystal Dynamic's Tomb Raider reboot, the studio is looking to cut Lara Croft from an entirely new cloth. We look back at official art over the past fifteen years and detail the metamorphosis of Lady Lara.

Tomb Raider
Year: 1996
Developer: Core Design
Publisher: Eidos Interactive
Platforms: PlayStation, Sega Saturn, PC, Mac

Lara Croft’s iconic look was set in stone with the release of Tomb Raider in 1996. Her distinctive face was dominated by wide brown eyes, thick, angular brows, and swollen lips. Lara’s hair has become a pillar of her identity throughout the years – stray auburn strands framing her face – but the look wasn’t fully realized in the first console release. Although her trademark braid was present in official art and renders, it was implied in the game itself. The in-game model had hair chopped at the nape of her neck, as the braid proved too difficult to realize in play.

Lara’s exaggerated stats – widely accepted as 34D/24/35 (at 5 ft. 9 in.) – created a memorable silhouette. Perched atop a pair of towering legs, Lara’s demure waist supported an unnaturally oversized bust. Croft’s ensemble aptly drew attention to her curvaceous physique. A cotton/lycra leotard clung to Lara like a second skin, straining against her augmented assets. Complemented with brown canvas shorts that left little to the imagination, Lara’s complete ensemble provided Core (and players) incentive to get creative with camera angles.

Bulky black holsters were accented with an unusually large brass buckle, which according to The Art of Tomb Raider, was enlarged to mask an awkward polygon juncture. A pair of rugged combat boots, brown knapsack, and fingerless gloves topped off the look. With the addition of Lara’s ever-present twin pistols, an icon was born.

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