I’ve been happily keeping the mitzvot my entire life and have never known any other lifestyle. I’m exactly the kind of woman that Hollywood thinks of and portrays as oblivious, brainwashed and oppressed, and they will almost always use the modest way that I dress to drive that point home.

The Torah teaches the importance of modesty in action and dress for both men and women. The general practice is that women cover their elbows, knees and collarbones, Married women will also cover their hair, often with a wig.

To state the obvious, I am far from oppressed, and no one is forcing me to do anything I don’t want to. What bothers me most about the assumption that I and my fellow observant Jewish women are just doing what we’re told is the notion that perhaps we’re not capable of deciding for ourselves exactly how we want to dress and cover up.

I know that modest dress is a tricky topic to talk about. As a fashion designer, I know just how emotional the process is of getting dressed. I’m not oblivious to the fact that some women struggle with dressing modestly; nevertheless, plenty of us have actively chosen to do so.

I am a practical kind of gal, and as a teenager growing up in Queens, N.Y., recognized that professional dress tended to be more covered. That teenage ego was very inflated and wanted nothing more than to be taken seriously, so I chose to dress modestly.

In college—my first experience ever being in a co-ed and not exclusively Jewish environment—I was asked out on a date for the first time in my life. I politely turned the very nice non-Jewish boy down and heard his friend console him with: “You never have a shot with the Jewish girls who dress like that.” None of my professors were surprised when I asked for accommodations around Jewish holidays, and most were helpful and kind. When it became important to be recognizable as Jewish, I chose to dress modestly.

At the age of 21, I started my fashion company. The process of running a fashion line involves a lot of time in warehouses, showrooms and freight elevators. I knew that opinions about the entirety of Torah-observant Jews were being formed based on my behavior, so I went out of my way to be gracious and kind. The fact that I was covered up pegged me as religious, and while I had to contend with some people’s opinions of “another Jew in the schmatta business,” the vast majority of people I interacted with took me seriously. And so, as I established my reputation and identity as a businesswoman, I chose to dress modestly.

When I was 22, I met and married my husband, and started wearing a wig to cover my hair. I established my own home with my own standards based on what I was comfortable with. As a married woman, I developed a deeper appreciation for the bodily autonomy aspect of modest dressing.

I like being able to control exactly who sees my body. I’ll admit that six years into my marriage, hair covering is still difficult for me, but I’ve grown to appreciate the beauty of an entire community following the same Torah, and for me, that is part of that package.

I have continuously chosen to dress modestly. At each life stage, the reasoning has been different, but the result is always the same.

Through modesty, I connect to the generations of my grandmothers who have dressed this way, I lean into my Jewish pride, and I assert my independence as an observant Jewish woman.