I feel your pain!
I wear suits every day for work. Which is horribly boring and stifling - and a drain on the clothing budget. I'd rather be buying fun stuff with personality. I love The Limited to stock up on my career wear. It's a little younger and more contemporary and than Ann Taylor, but less expensive than Banana Republic (another favorite), but still of good quality. Both stores carry pieces that are both work and after-work appropriate. I don't feel like such a boring stiff when I head out for a stiff drink at 5 PM! I buy lots of basics and then make them more fun with fabulous shoes!
Other shops worth browsing, although they are more hit/miss in terms of style and quality:
NY & Company - beware of the polyester!
Zara - lots of really great on-trend stuff, but the quality is all over the place
INC (International Concepts) in Macys. good basics/semi trendy/beware of the euro-trash pieces
JCrew - a lot of their stuff is overpriced.
Ann Taylor loft - although I hate the way most of their stuff fits
Ann Taylor - same as Loft in terms of fit
Express - beware of too-tight cuts!
I hope these are found in the SF area. I live in NYC, so I wasn't sure what you had access to or not. Good luck with your job!