Bringing Lara to Life
Lara Croft has always be an idol of mine. I was just entering adolescence when the first Tomb Raider game was released, and had just started to play video games. There was controversy over her sexy clothing and the rumors of a “Tomb Raider Nude Code” for every Tomb Raider release. People claimed that she was just a way to market to geek boys, but she was my gateway into loving video games as well. Lara was empowered and could kick some serious ass, but was always a lady at the same time. Classic Lara had used her considerable talents and wealth to chase her (very dangerous) dreams. It was her desire that drove her, and the love and respect she had for her father. She was one of the only female fighters who became a hero by choice, not because of a traumatic experience where they were victimized. (They have since changed this for the new Tomb Raider game, and it makes me very sad.) Also, she had major curves, was 5’9″, and had really long dark hair. Talk about a girl I could relate to!
I was invited to participate in a cosplay event for E3, but I needed to wear a video game costume. At first I refused, due to my complete lack of video game cosplays. Then it dawned on me… LARA! I did a rough Lara costume a few years ago, but had a lot of work to do (in about a week and a half) to bring it up to the standards of my other cosplays. Now, LOTS of people do Lara cosplays. They are easily recognizable, even with small mistakes and inconsistencies. Wonder Woman without armor looks odd, but people don’t really notice if Lara is missing her backpack, or if her boots are the wrong color. If you wear a aqua colored shirt, shorts, gun holsters, and braid your hair, you’re set! However, I thought it would be a disservice to my favorite archeologist (sorry Indy!) if I didn’t pay attention to the small details in classic Lara’s outfit.
Lara’s classic boots are brown. This is one of the details that most often gets overlooked because it is so easy to find black boots that approximate the design of Lara’s. I don’t make boots, so these were the first step in this cosplay process because I needed them to arrive in less than a week. They had to look rugged and utilitarian enough to be useful climbing through tombs. After extensive searching, I ended up getting these boots from Amazon.com.
Reference pics differ slightly on the color of Lara’s shorts, but most are either a dark Khaki color or a variation chocolate brown. Since I had some Khaki shorts that fit well already, I decided to customize them to fit Lara’s style. The first step was getting them the right color. The shorts were dyed them with a combination of brown dyes to get the balance that looked the most like the reference pic to the left. I present the before and after pictures:
The dye actually wasn’t absorbed into some of the thread of the shorts, which gave them some great (unplanned) texture and detail. After dying them, I shortened and hemmed them within an inch of their lives!
Getting Lara’s shirt to look right is all about tailoring. No shirt fits that well over a pair of large breasts without a few nips and tucks. I started with a Bella women’s short sleeve shirt in seafoam blue, and basically remade it. I removed the sleeves and opened the neck more to imitate Lara’s tank top. This gave it a pretty good fit, but it was still too loose around the waist and the arm holes had gaps due to the super-bra I was wearing (don’t judge). I ended up adding darts to the front of the shirt to make sure it fit around the breasts well, and took in about a half inch around the waist area on each side. This gave it a much more fitted look that matched Lara’s. I will have to be very careful with this shirt because any stretching will undo the work I put into fitting it perfectly.
If you’re still reading this, you must be planning your own Lara cosplay… or are hoping for some sexy finished cosplay pics. The rest of the pieces of the outfit I bought, mostly on Amazon and Ebay. I highly suggest looking in military surplus for brass belt buckles for a more realistic, but still classic Lara look. I found mine, and the leather backpack on Ebay. The backpack was actually a purse which required some alteration of the straps and a removal of a loop handle. The guns were the most difficult thing to find. I pieced them together off of Amazon finds, but have since found a great deal for Lara guns and holsters. These are almost exactly like what I ended up with, but actually are cheaper! I had to remove the upper leg strap on my holsters (just like with the pair I linked to above) in order to match Lara’s classic look.
PRO TIP: Make sure your holsters have clips/ties/straps/etc that keep the guns in the holsters. There is nothing less Lara-like than sitting down and having your guns crash to the floor.
Last but not least, the famous Lara braid. I am very lucky to have incredibly long, dark hair. However, mine is layered and does not have the thick full look that Lara’s does when braided. My solution was to buy a bag of weave hair at my local wig store. They usually run about $3, but you have to be careful that it matches your hair color well enough to look natural. It’s not good quality hair, so it’s not good for styling, but it worked well to braid in with my natural hair. I just attached it to some banana clips by folding it over and using tiny elastic bands. On the night of the event, I french braided my own hair and slowly clipped in the home-made extensions in with my own. It worked very well and matched perfectly.
I’m just starting to learn about makeup, and so (like all my cosplays) I did a youtube search for the type of look I wanted. I wanted her eyes to stand out a lot, just like in the games. I used the eye styling from this youtube video, but didn’t use any of the other tips. Yes, it says it’s styled after Kim Kardashian. Just ignore that, because the eyes look cool when they are finished.
And… you’ve got Lara Croft!