(CNN)When Donald Trump's first wife, Ivana, worked for the Trump empire years ago, she received an unusual form of compensation: "One dollar and all the dresses I can buy."
Donald Trump paid ex-wife in dresses
More than two decades after the couple's divorce, Trump is the Republican Party's top presidential candidate and likes to boast that female executives at his company are paid handsomely.
"In many cases, I pay the women more. I have women that get paid a lot of money," Trump said in an interview with CNN's Chris Cuomo this week.
The billionaire real estate and construction mogul is currently dominating national and early state polls. As the party's frontrunner, Trump's past statements, including those about women, have come under close scrutiny.
Ivana's salary — or lack thereof -- for her work at various Trump properties came up in the couple's messy divorce proceedings in the early 1990s. When they separated, Ivana and her lawyers argued that Trump was trying to give her less than what she was due according to a prior agreement.
But it wasn't that Ivana had insisted on getting paid.
In fact, in one lengthy testimony reviewed by CNN, the former model from Czechoslovakia said that for most of the time that she was married to Trump (they married in 1977), she didn't think twice about her compensation.
"In the marriage, in my understanding of the marriage, you are partner in anything what you do with your husband and if it is in marital or business-wise, you are partners," Ivana said. "That's my understanding of marriage, as a principle."
A salary of "one dollar and all the dresses I could wear," Ivana said, "was always a symbol for me."
Trump's campaign spokeswoman Hope Hicks declined to comment.
Ivana could not be reached for comment. Her longtime publicist, Catherine Saxton, said in an email that the "one dollar and all the dresses I could wear" agreement was "never meant as anything more than a throwaway line."
In a statement last month, Ivana saidshe and Trump were "best of friends" and expressed support for his presidential campaign.
"I think he would make an incredible president," she said.
The couple's marriage deteriorated as rumors began to swirl about Trump's extra-marital affair with Marla Maples -- a woman Trump married in 1993.
In one 1990 complaint, Ivana's lawyers accused Trump of being "unwilling to share" his family's "ever growing wealth" with Ivana.
Feeling "intimidation," the lawyers wrote, Ivana was too fearful to make claims to assets or interests that Trump had gained during their marriage.
According to a financial statement estimating Ivana's net worth as of November 1987, she had $400,000 worth of cash certificates of deposit and in checking and savings accounts, as well as $800,000 in personal property including clothing, jewelry and art. The statement also listed Ivana as having no investments tied to stocks, bonds and real estate properties, and nothing in retirement accounts.
In Trump's defense, his legal team pointed to alleged financial troubles plaguing the businessman at the time.
"Defendant does not have the means to support his wife, his children and himself as they previously lived," Trump's lawyer wrote to a judge in the summer of 1990. "This is an economic reality which must be confronted."
It's clear that Trump valued Ivana's contributions to his business.
In his book, "Trump: The Art of the Deal," Trump referred to Ivana as a "great manager" and described her as "demanding and very competitive."
Around the opening of Trump's Castle in Atlantic City, Trump said that rather than hire an outside general manager, he decided to put Ivana in charge.
"When it comes to running a casino, good management skills are as important as specific gaming experience," he wrote. "She proved me right."
When the couple finally settled, Ivana walked away with $14 million, in addition to other perks like a massive mansion in Greenwich, Connecticut.