Why Ivana Trump’s 80s excess look came back into fashion at just the right time


While Donald Trump’s third wife Melania prepares to become America’s first foreign born First Lady since 1825, the President-elect’s first wife Ivana – who was once described as “the ultimate symbol of strength, glamour and worldliness” – has now spoken out about her own political ambitions. “I will suggest that I be Ambassador for the Czech Republic,” she told the New York Post this weekend. “That is where I’m from, and my language, and everybody knows me.”

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Whether Trump grants her suggestion or not, it’s not just in political spheres that Ivana (who was rumoured to have advised her ex during his campaign) has been wielding influence of late. At a presentation about Net-a-Porter’s focuses for the autumn/winter fashion season, Vice President of Global Buying, Sarah Rutson, cited the first Mrs Trump as a key fashion inspiration for the coming months.

saint laurent

Saint Laurent AW16

Singling out Hedi Slimane’s farewell Saint Laurent show, Rutson pointed to Trump in her 80s excess heyday as the template for a new uber-glamorous mood in fashion. From Slimane’s super-short cocktail dresses with elaborate bows to Isabel Marant’s one-shouldered ruched tops and fishnet tights and Balmain’s hard-edged, power shoulder jackets, the va-va-voom which Ivana – who told a New York Times journalist “You don’t have to put down the second name…Ivana is what the people call me” – once brought to the upper echelons of American society is back on the radar.


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balmain

Balmain AW16

After meeting when one-time champion skier Ivana was working as a model – what else? – in New York, Donald and his Czechoslovakia-born first bride were married in 1977. A mutual quest for world-domination ensued and the couple became the poster man and woman for the boom-fueled opulence of the 1980s.

ivana trump

Ivana Trump in September 2016 Credit: Rex

With her bouffant of blonde hair, Ivana probably consumed 99% of the world’s supply of Elnett hair spray- a feat she continues to achieve to this day. The beehive sported by Joanna Lumley’s Patsy character in Absolutely Fabulous is said to have been inspired by her.

Ivana Trump at a fashion show in 1990

Ivana Trump at a fashion show in 1990 Credit:  Penske Media/REX/Shutterstock

Her wardrobe, meanwhile, made Dynasty’s Alexis Carrington look like a nun. Think elaborate taffeta creations with the look of a life-sized Quality Street wrapper, unashamedly oversized fur coats and the most bling-tastic cocktail dresses imaginable. And her tastes don’t seem to have adjusted since then, with all her most recent public appearences still chiming with the 80s look she made her own. 

Ivana Trump at the Cannes Film Festival in May

Still working a LBD… Ivana Trump at the Cannes Film Festival in May

“When she had first come to New York, she wore elaborate helmet hairdos and bouffant satin dresses, very Hollywood; her image of rich American women probably came from the movies she had seen as a child,” was how Vanity Fair described Ivana’s style in an analysis of the Trumps’ eventual divorce in 1990. “Ivana had now spent years passing through the fine rooms of New York, but she had never seemed to learn the real way of the truly rich, the art of understatement.”

ivana trump

Ivana Trump with Count Roffredo Gaetani in 1997

But it is this very failure to achieve a minimalist, whisperingly-rather than screamingly- expensive style which may have made Ivana a new fashion muse. After years of desiring only Celine cream tunics, The Row’s perfect black trousers and anonymous crisp mannish shirts, the fashion world has been crying out for Drama! Excess! Fun! Ivana, if you’ll pardon the pun, comes up trumps.

“It may not be the decade we remember with the utmost fondness, but the hard edged glamour of the eighties certainly made an impact this season” confirms Lisa Aiken, Net-a-Porter’s  retail fashion director. Luckily she has advice for how to wear it now. “To keep the look modern, be selective and don’t try to replicate the era top to toe. At Net-a-Porter, we’ve bought into wide belts to bring that 80s cinched-waist silhouette to mini dresses and blazers. Balmain, Maison Margiela and of course Saint Laurent showed strong ones for AW16. In terms of accessories look for sharp stilettos, oversized statement earrings and chain handle bags, but wear them one at a time.”

saint laurent

More opulent Ivana glitz from Hedi Slimane’s final Saint Laurent collection

Since the divorce from Trump (in which she managed to receive a $20 million settlement despite his impending bankruptcy), Ivana has married twice again. Both were short-lived marriages. So renowned had she become for encapsulating 80s glamour, that she spent most of the 90s capitalizing on it with her own fashion line- Ivana Haute Couture- which offered copies of her own designer wardrobe and jewellery. It seems she had even come around to her ex-husband’s thrifty ways, declaring: “For me, the real jewels are not that important now. I wear my costume jewels from my collection.”

Ivana also famously made a cameo appearance in the 1996 film The First Wives Club in which she advised: “Don’t get mad, get everything”. It’s a phrase which could take on new meaning as Donald Trump begins his presidency and she vies for a role in his entourage. 

Rumours swirled about the power struggles in the Trump marriage and Ivana has made allegations about her ex-husband’s violence towards her. So perhaps all the gilted jewellery, piles of brassy blonde hair and opulent wardrobe weren’t just an expression of an 80s anything-goes culture, but the sartorial solution to dealing with “the Donald.” So pile on the tackiest, sorry, blingiest costume jewellery you can find, pull on a sequinned cocktail dress with sleeves the size of Donald’s ego and face the Trump presidency in defiant Ivana-style. She certainly will be. 

Five very Ivana things to buy now:

dannijo earrings

Chanedelier earrings, £190, Dannijo at Net-a-Porter

zara dress

Embellished dress, £49.99,  Zara

isabel marant belt

Patent belt, £1955, Isabel Marant at Matchesfashion.com

gianvito rossi heels

Red strap sandals, £570, Gianvito Rossi at Brownsfashion.com

topshop coat

Tiger-print coat, £89, Topshop

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