The iconic designer's wellness secrets include "sporadic" exercise, a good night's sleep and, yes, vodka

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Vera Wang
Credit: Courtesy of Vera Wang Group

Vera Wang usually makes headlines for creating gorgeous designs for her A-list clientele. Whether it's for the red carpet or their weddings, she's worked with just about every celebrity in the game. But earlier this year, it wasn't what she designed that caused a stir on the internet — it was what she was wearing.

While self-isolating in Miami in May, the legendary designer, 71, shared a photo of herself posing in a Palm Angels sports bra and white denim shorts that made the internet do a collective double-take after seeing her toned abs, arms and legs.

Vera Wang
Vera Wang
| Credit: Vera Wang/Instagram

"I was totally shocked," Wang tells PEOPLE exclusively when asked about her reaction to the coverage. "To be perfectly honest, the real goal of that picture was [to feature] the hair clips I had in my hair. And hair clips don't exactly show up that well in a picture. So we really had to minimize whatever I was wearing and to keep the focus on my hair and those crystal clips. And the fact it became about my Palm Angels workout top was so crazy."

After being the woman behind so many memorable fashion moments, she was surprised this put her in the forefront.

"I'm sort of the one that always puts the women I dress upfront," she explains. "I am a fashion designer. And I have dressed some of the most amazing women over the last 30 years on the red carpet when they've actually won Oscars or Golden Globes or Emmys. And so I'm always the one pushing them out the door, and fixing their train at the Met Gala."

She continues, "Even my years at Vogue as a sittings editor [she worked at the magazine for 16 years before transitioning to design], I created a lot of the pictures and was always behind the camera. So I always thought of myself as somebody who, in all fairness, was the creator and not the subject matter. So it was sort of shocking. I can't lie to you."

So what's her secret to keeping so fit? Turns out, it is not as regimented a routine as one may think. "I would say [it's] sporadic. Sporadic is the perfect word," Wang says when asked about her workout routine. "I mean, I was an elite athlete in my youth. I was a competitive figure skater in the United States and a dancer at Balanchine School of American Ballet. I think when you spend the first 16 years of your life that physically engaged, there is such a thing that it sort of stays with you. There's a muscle memory that goes with that."

While she found time during quarantine to get a few workouts in, which she says is great to stave off anxiety, maintaining a good sleep schedule has always been her most important self-care tool.

"Sleep is key to having survived growing a company, raising two kids," says Wang. "I mean, I don't think I could exist if I wasn't able to sleep. I had to get rest because I feel it's a regenerator. So sleep is a very big part and certainly vodka. Because I mean, it's just so great to be able to unwind with a cocktail."

She clarifies she's "not talking about having 10" but a vodka cocktail makes a nice transition from the workday to dinner time. "It just creates a nice break."

Earlier this year she was forced to take somewhat of a break (from going into the office at least) when government shutdowns due to the coronavirus pandemic halted work in her design offices and factories across the U.S. Though Wang and her team continued working remotely "nonstop," she says it certainly affected the brand's 2020 fiscal year, but she's starting to see an upswing again.

"We had way more delays than cancelations, oddly enough," Wang shares. "Brides were not giving up on getting married. I think now more than ever, they feel the desire and the need and the excitement about having a wedding. So that's a wonderful thing."

When asked what advice she would give brides planning their big day, she says it's a totally personal decision. "What I love is that it's really about the bride's choice. It's just about her decision, whether she wants to have a small wedding or just the two of them have a ceremony and then delay the party."

Credit: Courtesy Zales

"What I always say about weddings, is that it's your most public statement about your most private feelings for someone and that's a big deal," she shares. "Getting married is one of the most optimistic, positive things people do. Because it's making a bet, it's saying, 'I'm going to really try to make this relationship committed and important to my life.' And I think that is kind of cool today now more than ever actually."

Credit: Courtesy Zales

So for anyone who wants to make that proclamation, Wang is your go-to brand when it comes to all-things bridal — from dresses (she has designed gowns for countless stars including Alicia Keys, Victoria Beckham and Kim Kardashian) to gifts (her Vera Wang Wedgwood collection is available at Macy's, Bloomingdale's and Bed Bath and Beyond) and rings (she has an engagement collection at Zales, Vera Wang Love), she covers every corner of the market.

Credit: Courtesy Zales

"What I love about jewelry is that it's an investment. In a very impermanent world that we live, it's something that is solid," she says when asked about her latest designs for Zales. "You're making an investment in a piece, whether it's an engagement ring or something you wear every day for fun."

For customers that want to make a piece all their own, the Vera Wang LOVE configurator allows them to select from cut options, to carat weight, mount and metal.

In addition to styling her first Zales campaign (seen in the photos, above), Wang promises that even more exciting projects are in the works. "We've been very motivated as a company. I think we all feel very, very excited about what contributions we can make in whatever we're doing. Not only aesthetically, but emotionally."