The modesty required by mid-18th century fashion did not allow for much skin to be exposed no matter how hot the weather. To get around this, and assure women didn’t drop like flies from heat stroke, summer gowns were made from cotton or linen, which was lighter and far more breathable than the heavy silk damasks usually used.
This robe à la française, dating to circa 1760 and made of slightly earlier material, is made of a plain weave linen and embroidered with colorful flowers in wool. (Yes, the flowers are all embroidered, not printed!)
The ensemble is completed with a flat straw hat known as a bergère which served as a sort of wearable parasol and allowed 18th century women to maintain their fashion-mandated pale complexion while keeping their hands free.